Matt's Past SAT/ACT News Update

Matt O'Connor

Mar 17, 2020

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post covers the postponement and cancellation of upcoming nationwide ACT and SAT testing dates:


The ACT college admissions test scheduled for April 4 is being rescheduled for June 13, according to ACT Inc., which owns the exam. The College Board, which owns the SAT, announced it has canceled its exam scheduled for May 2 and would refund money for students who have already registered.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said in a statement Monday the requirements for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STARR, would be waived, and he called on the U.S. Education Department to waive federal testing requirements.

The department said it would consider giving states waivers from federal testing mandates included in the Every Student Succeeds Act but has not issued a blanket waiver. The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) released guidance for schools saying, “state assessments are cancelled for the remainder of the 2020 school year.” That includes the Smarter Balanced Assessments in English language arts and math for grades three through eight and 10, and half-a-dozen other standardized exams.

At least 33 states and the District have closed schools, many in the middle of spring standardized testing season. States use the results for different purposes, including to meet a federal testing mandate designed to assess how schools are helping students learn. There are other tests, too, including for high school graduation, third-grade retention and school voucher eligibility.

Washington and Texas are likely to be “the tip of the iceberg,” said Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director of the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest, which seeks to end the misuse of standardized tests.

“Canceling annual testing should become the default policy in jurisdictions that do not resume school by early April when most state exams are scheduled to begin,” Schaeffer said.

“Forcing students who have been out of their classrooms for weeks or more to take standardized exams soon after they return makes no sense educationally or psychologically,” he said. “Scores from tests administered under those circumstances would have even less meaning than usual because of lack of learning time and disruptions from the coronavirus.”

The College Board had proceeded with the March administration of the SAT but allowed individual sites to cancel and scores did. On Monday, it announced the cancellation of the May 2 SAT exam and makeups for the March exam.

“We have not yet canceled the June 6, 2020, SAT administration and will continue to assess its status with the health and safety of students and educators as our top priority,” the College Board said.

Forbes weighs in on the potential impact of test cancellations on college-bound students:


Spring cancellations will most affect juniors who have not yet sat for their SAT, or who were depending on spring test dates as an opportunity to earn their goal score. These students especially should take advantage of the extra time they now have to study, and focus all of their energy on preparing for their next exam date, whenever that may be. Students should maintain a structured study schedule that mirrors the one they kept before the COVID-19 pandemic as continuing to study for standardized tests will ensure that they do not delay their exam schedule further than it already has been by these cancellations.

Students should consider the possibility that they may have less opportunities to sit for their exams before the college application deadline. That being said, higher education institutions and their admissions offices are aware of these cancellations, and will take them into consideration come admissions season. These students may no longer be able to rely on perfect scores and should focus on finding additional ways to stand out on their college applications, like developing their passions and pursuing non-academic goals that allow them to stand out.

On the anniversary of the breaking of the Operation Varsity Blues investigation, a TIME magazine article considers "A Year After the College Admissions Scandal, Here's What Has (and Has Not) Changed":


“There has to be sweeping changes in order to bring both equity and sanity to this process. And the changes I’ve seen so far may be baby steps in the right direction, but they’re not moving the needle in a way that I view as significant,” says [Sally] Rubenstone, an independent college counselor and former admissions officer at Smith College in Northampton. “Any sort of changes that are being made now — or might foreseeably be made in the next year or so — are going to be a spit in the ocean.”

If there’s one thing the admissions scandal has done, though, it has energized advocates who have long pushed for changes that could alleviate the inequities plaguing low-income and minority students as they vie for spots at top colleges and universities.

In December, a group of minority students and advocacy organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the University of California to stop requiring the SAT and ACT in admissions. The lawsuit argues that the standardized testing requirement “systematically and unlawfully denies talented and qualified students with less accumulated advantage a fair opportunity to pursue higher education at the [University of California].” A faculty task force at the university pushed back, insisting that test scores are a good predictor of how well students will do in college. The university has filed an objection to the suit, claiming the plaintiffs don’t have a case. A judge will hear the case in May, the same month that the university’s Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on the testing requirement.

“The Varsity Blues scandal—I think it’s the tip of the same iceberg, but it wasn’t like that’s what woke us up,” says Mark Rosenbaum, an attorney at Public Counsel, which filed the lawsuit. “This case could’ve been brought generations ago.”

Akil Bello, the advocacy director for FairTest, which opposes standardized testing, has used the scandal to encourage low-income students who might suffer from imposter syndrome, or doubting that they are qualified to attend top schools.

“You have some people who will, implicitly or explicitly, tell them they don’t belong,” Bello says, but he thinks Varsity Blues has provided those kids with the perfect retort: “How much did your mommy pay for you to get in?”

The schools caught up in the admissions scandal say they’ve taken steps to prevent it from happening again. The University of California system—which saw UCLA and UC Berkeley ensnared in the corruption—said it had begun to monitor donations to prevent them from affecting admissions decisions. It also said it was creating a clear document trail to explain admissions decisions based on athletics or other special talents; improving the process of verifying those special talents; and working to identify potential conflicts of interest in admissions. The University of Southern California—where three former coaches and a former senior associate athletic director were accused of helping students gain admission in exchange for bribes—said it had strengthened its process for reviewing student-athlete applications, requiring that three athletics officials review each file before sending it on to admissions officers. The university will also audit athletic rosters twice each year and cross-check it against admissions lists.

“Up until last year, admissions officials would often question if an athletic recruit was academically qualified for their institution, but they never considered whether a recruit was athletically qualified,” Rubenstone says. “That’s no longer true.”

The Florida state house has passed a bill that would mandate that all students be able to take the SAT or ACT free of charge starting in the 2022-23 school year. The bill now heads to the Florida state senate for consideration.

The University of Redlands in California (ranked no. 16 by US News in Regional Universities West; 3,100 undergraduates) has announced the adoption of test optional policy.