Equity & Diversity

College Board Reverses Course, Scraps Online Option for SAT Exams

By Mark Lieberman — June 03, 2020 2 min read

The College Board will not offer an at-home, digital version of its SAT college entrance exam this fall, reversing an earlier plan after critics raised concerns about internet access and recent Advanced Placement testing woes. The rival exam, the ACT, is still developing an at-home version, the Associated Press reported.

Tests planned for March and June were canceled as school buildings nationwide shut down to limit the spread of COVID-19. In April, the College Board announced plans to develop an at-home SAT in case schools couldn’t reopen in the fall, and to offer the SAT more frequently than usual on August weekends.

Offering the multiple-choice math and English-language aptitude test at home, and using remote proctoring via webcam, would require students to have continuous internet access for more than three hours. But millions of students across the country can’t afford broadband service, or live in areas where it’s not available.

Schools have been offering mobile hotspots and encouraging students to visit school parking lots and buses to connect for digital learning. Ed-tech groups have called for more than $5 billion in federal funds to ensure equitable internet access for all, but Congress has yet to offer relief, and local regulations in some areas also serve as obstacles to rapid broadband expansion.

More than 90 percent of students who took the nation’s first-ever, at-home AP tests earlier this spring were able to complete them. But 20,000 students experienced technical glitches that prevented them from submitting their answers, and the College Board has said they’ll likely have to retake their exams. A $500 million federal class action lawsuit against the College Board aims to require the College Board to score exams that haven’t been counted.

Students who were displaced from the test earlier this year also encountered difficulty registering for make-up exams, Inside Higher Ed reported. The tests were also beset by cheating concerns. Shortly before AP testing began nationwide last month, the College Board canceled registration for students suspected of participating in a “cheating ring.” Advocates protested the board’s decision, which came with few details about the nature of the cheating plans or the number of students affected.

Meanwhile, a growing number of colleges and universities, including the University of California system, plan to shift to a “test-optional” model that allows students to apply for admission without submitting standardized entrance exam scores. That shift had already begun prior to this year, but testing disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted more students to petition colleges to adopt those policies.

Critics of entrance exams say they reward students who come from families who can afford expensive test prep and put students from marginalized demographic groups at a disadvantage.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.