Roundup of Student Experiences with the June ACT
This weekend we tracked the stories of dozens of our students across the country as they attempted to take an official ACT. Some had successful testing outcomes, while others were frustrated to find their test centers unexpectedly closed when they arrived on test day. Here’s a roundup of their collective experiences from this weekend:
Frustration over unannounced closures
For some of our students, the experience on Saturday was one of disappointment. When the ACT announced its list of closed test centers for the June administration, it warned that things could change at any time up to the test day, and for some students, this is exactly what took place. We had students learn Thursday night that their test centers were not going to be open on Saturday. Some were told their tests had been delayed until June 20th; others were canceled until future test dates. This was particularly frustrating for students who had been acting on the assumption that their tests would take place and who had spent significant time preparing.
On Thursday one student in a DC suburb received three emails in succession from the ACT announcing modifications to her administration: your test center has changed; your test center is back to the original location; your test has been canceled. This string of communications was obviously frustrating and reveals how quickly things were shifting in the run-up to the test.
Some students did not learn that their tests had been canceled on the morning of the ACT. One parent from metro-Atlanta sent us this note on Saturday morning:
“ACT canceled her test at 6:30 AM today. We drove out to the test center to find it closed.”
She wasn’t alone. Other students and parents similarly expressed frustration at arriving at test centers to find groups of students waiting outside for tests that had been canceled. Clearly there were some communication failures as test centers made last-minute decisions about the safety of opening for students.
A variety of testing conditions
For students who were able to test, testing conditions seemed to vary by test center. Some had their temperatures taken; others did not. Some were required to wear masks the entire test; others were only asked to wear them upon entry/exit. Most reported feeling comfortable with the safety protocols in place.
One student in North Carolina spoke of the test conditions at his testing site: “Temperature checks upon arrival. Each student was asked to use hand sanitizer. Each student was given a mask and gloves to wear. All test administrators wore gloves and a mask. There were only about six kids in each room.”
A student from McAllen, TX described the test-center conditions:
“Although they required masks, I saw quite a few people still not [having] one on. The proctor and employees were all wearing masks. When we walked into the individual room, the proctor asked us a series of questions about our health, people we had been around, travel, etc. My temperature was never taken and . . . .although the room was pretty medium-small sized, the desks were for sure 6 feet apart and I felt safe.”
A few hours away, in San Antonio, a student had a different experience:
“. . . they took our temperature before entering the test center and there were only 9 people in the room that I took it in and we were all spaced apart the entire time! We also had to wear masks the entire time!”
In Denver, our student was given more latitude with the masks:
“. . . we only had to wear a mask when entering and leaving the building. Other than that it was exactly the same as any other ACT.”
An Atlanta student shared this:
“They did not take my temperature, I did sit far apart from one other student considering I have extended time, and the test went about the same as the rest”
A student in DC took a multi-day, extended time ACT over four days at a private school. She shared that the facility had many rooms set aside for the test-takers. She took her test in the theater, where 8 large tables were set up on the stage. Although she had to wear a mask walking to the room, once the test began, she was able to remove her mask.
Glimmers of normalcy
For students able to get past the masks and the temperature checks and the uncertainty, the test was, in many ways, the same as always. We were encouraged to see some return to normalcy and students able to celebrate their achievements. One of our students gave this appraisal:
“I think that ACT was the best I’ve ever taken!…”
The first official ACT administered during the pandemic saw mixed results, and both the ACT, Inc. and The College Board will have more challenges ahead as they attempt to manage communications across markets all over the country. We feel for the students who had their plans changed at the last minute. The testing agencies owe it to their students to be as transparent as possible about testing changes and give them as much lead time as possible when changes are required.
We’ve been coaching our students to expect the unexpected and have as much grace as possible as they face COVID-related disappointments in school and outside of school: both experiences they were really excited to have (prom, internships, summer camps, athletics, etc.) and experiences they were excited to put behind them(including admissions tests). Flexibility will be essential during this time, both inside and outside of school.