Tutors Denied Access to the Redesigned SAT
In an unprecedented move, the College Board emailed thousands of adult test takers (apparently all registrants age 21 and older) yesterday morning, officially cancelling their registrations for this Saturday’s SAT. The adult test-takers, many of whom are tutors, may reschedule for the May test, receive a refund, or appeal the decision. Unless they are granted an exemption from the College Board, which appears highly unlikely (the rejections to appeals have been nearly immediate), these adults will be barred from taking the inaugural SAT this weekend.
The College Board has historically allowed non-high school students to sit for the SAT. Along with thousands of other tutors and adult test takers across the country, I sat for the most recent “New SAT” in March 2005, and, like many others in the education space, I had reserved my seat months ago for this coming Saturday’s SAT. I have been looking forward to taking the new test and determining how closely it aligns with previously released practice material. But the College Board has now removed that possibility, cancelling a five-month old registration within five days of the official test.
In its notification email, the College Board explained that the cancelled registrations are a “security measure” – a means of “ensur[ing] that everyone taking the test is doing so for its intended purpose.” But to what can we attribute the last-minute nature of this decision, announced a mere five days before the official test? The College Board could have easily restricted access to this test from the beginning or announced this decision earlier, but this would have allowed tutoring companies a chance to find a work-around. By rescinding these registrations now, the College Board is preventing anyone from being added to the waitlist, which closes exactly five days before each test! Tutoring companies cannot now send in a 20-year-old tutor to work around the last-minute restrictive measure.
Why did the College Board go to such lengths to ensure that tutors and other adult test takers would be excluded from the March test? Establishing an accurate curve for the new SAT is essential for the College Board. Once the test is normed using the March SAT, the performance of students for years to come will be compared to the performance of students from this inaugural testing administration. Still, it would have been easy for the College Board and the Educational Testing Service (the organization that develops and determines the scoring for the SAT) to simply exclude the test scores of individuals outside of the age range of typical high school juniors and seniors, thus eliminating the influence of professionals on the final curve. If, however, the College Board and ETS plan to use the scores of every single test-taker from the March test to norm the new SAT, then the profusion of adult test-takers could, in fact, skew the curve.
During most SAT administrations, the number of adult test-takers is relatively small in comparison to the number of college-bound high school students. However, this testing administration is different. For nearly a year, many college counselors, tutors and others in education have been warning students to avoid the first administration of the Redesigned SAT. If students heeded that counsel, then their numbers will be underrepresented during the March test. Meanwhile, tutors and educational professionals, eager to experience the new SAT first-hand, would have been overrepresented, exerting excessive leverage on the scoring distribution.
No matter the motivation, the last-minute nature of the College Board’s announcement, which has affected thousands of paid registrants, reflects poorly on the organization. Protecting the integrity of the test is essential, but one wonders if there could have been a more straightforward way to do so. We now question whether the College Board will decide to invalidate paid registrations for future tests as well. Only time will tell. For now, we plan to sit for the new SAT as soon as the College Board reopens its doors to the full range of test takers.