By Gabrielle Wanneh
The College Board on Wednesday announced plans for moving forward with its college-admissions tests, despite a COVID-19 pandemic that has shuttered schools and in-person testing sites.
“We’re at a moment in which education has been almost entirely disrupted,” said College Board CEO David Coleman. “We want to help families and students plan, and transparency is important now more than ever.”
All immediately upcoming administrations of the SAT and ACT were canceled or postponed around mid-March as the coronavirus spread throughout the United States. As public health officials have made it clear that it is not safe for students to gather at this time, the SAT set for June 6, 2020, has also been cancelled.
It’s estimated that 1 million first-time SAT-takers missed out on testing this spring, roughly 75 percent of whom most likely would have taken the assessment during SAT School Day administrations, a partnership with states and districts through which students are required or encouraged to take the test during the regular school day.
To make up for the loss of spring testing, the College Board announced a three-point plan to make the SAT available to all students in fall and ensure that students still have opportunities to take the test despite the setbacks of COVID-19:
Once it’s safe from a public health standpoint, a weekend SAT will be administered every month beginning in August—including a test administration in September along with the previously scheduled tests on August 29, October 3, November 7, and December 5.
To replace the canceled in-school SAT testing this spring, the College Board will offer school day administrations in the fall.
In the event that schools do not reopen in the fall, the College Board will provide digital SAT testing for at-home use, similar to how they are administering digital Advanced Placement exams this spring.
Students will be able to register for the upcoming national administrations in May, and students who registered for the June test or are currently high school juniors will have early access to register for the August, September, and October administrations. The College Board will communicate directly with students once an exact date has been set.
In preparation for each administration, the organization is planning to expand its capacity for students to take the SAT significantly once schools reopen. Member schools and colleges, as well as local communities, have also been called to help in providing additional testing space for students.
“Our first principle with the SAT and all our work must be to keep families and students safe,” said Coleman. “The second principle is to make the SAT as widely available as possible for students who wish to test, regardless of the economic or public health circumstances.”
The College Board’s announcement comes as several colleges and universities are already waiving their own requirements for the admissions test. A recent survey by Cirkled In, an adaptive portfolio platform for students, found that 25 percent of college admissions officers have already planned to drop their SAT/ACT requirements as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Among some of the schools that have already chosen to drop the SAT/ACT for the time being is the University of California. At the end of March, the school announced its decision to temporarily relax its SAT/ACT requirements for the Fall 2021 freshmen class, who at the moment are high school juniors, among other temporary adjustments the university has made to alleviate the stress of prospective students.
“By removing artificial barriers and decreasing stressors—including suspending the use of the SAT—for this unprecedented moment in time, we hope there will be less worry for our future students.” said John A. Perez, chair of the UC Board of Regents.
Meanwhile, the survey found that including the percentage of schools dropping their requirements, a total of 69 percent of the 33 colleges and universities that responded to the survey are making the SAT/ACT an optional portion of the admissions process.
The College Board has been working with higher education partners as they continue to navigate potential solutions as the situation evolves, and expressed support for institutions that are emphasizing flexibility for next year’s admissions process at this time.
The College Board also stressed the importance of understanding how many students may have been impacted by COVID-19. Families and students who’ve been hit the hardest are most likely the ones with the fewest resources.
“It has never been more important to pay attention to the context in which students learn and live,” said Coleman. “This virus will hit students very differently depending on their circumstances.”
The organization expressed support for the admissions officers of member colleges who have said that the circumstances of the pandemic will be taken into account when reviewing test scores, grades, and extracurricular activities in the coming year.
In light of the College Board’s plans and adjustments, there are still questions to be posed about their implications, some experts said..
According to Compass Education Group Co-Founder Adam Ingersoll, lingering concerns range from when registration will open for the exisitng fall test dates to how will colleges respond to a possible outcry about security and equity should a remotely proctored SAT take place, and how might the upheaval in testing affect the college application season for the class of 2021.
The College Board plans to provide students and families with more specific information regarding testing plans and dates in the coming weeks.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.