To the Editor:
I just performed a Google search motivated by a small and unobtrusively placed news story. I searched, “College Board SAT test timing misprint.” If you don’t have a child experiencing the dreadful throes of college preparation and testing, this particular story might have slipped right by you. The College Board admitted that there was a mistake in the timing information provided for the last section of a recent SAT.
Reading-test booklets incorrectly stated that 25 minutes was allotted for the last reading section, while the proctor’s manual and script noted the correct time of 20 minutes. Students taking the last math section in the same room were also affected by the error.
In the world of standardized testing, this is a huge mistake. Students who have spent months preparing for this life-changing test are upset and anxious. They are worried they will they lose their competitive edge against the other millions of students seeking college admission. These students, and in many cases their parents, have prepared, trained, and studied. Now that work is in jeopardy, due to a typographical error that may—or may not—have provided five extra minutes of time, depending on the proctor’s decision in the classroom.
The College Board has dropped these two sections in students’ score calculations.
What I want to address is how we reached a point in our educational process where the existence, or lack thereof, of five minutes of testing has become so overwhelmingly crucial to the future of these aspiring students. What does this dilemma tell us about the misguided weight placed on standardized testing?
If we have reached a point in academics where we fear that admission decisions are affected by five minutes on a standardized test, then I suggest we take those same five minutes to question the way these scores are determining the futures of our talented youths.
Mindy Fivush Levine
A version of this article appeared in the August 05, 2015 edition of Education Week as What Can You Measure in Five Minutes? Ask the Students