Summer SAT program cancelled due to unfairness concerns

The College Board recently canceled a program in which high school students could attend a three-week course and take the SAT in the summer.
The College Board recently canceled a program in which high school students could attend a three-week course and take the SAT in the summer.

A group of high school students and their families learned Tuesday that they would not have the exclusive ability to take the SAT this August.

The College Board, the provider of college preparatory tests including the SAT, announced in May that it would offer a unique SAT during the summer, available only to students attending the National Society for the Gifted and Talented University Prep program at Amherst College. This $4,500, three-week selective program was scheduled to offer its students the test August 3. The College Board announced yesterday that it had canceled this exclusive offering, citing concerns about how it would affect the equity and access of the test.

The potential advantages to a summer test include more sleep and a clearer mind. The NSGT students would have had access to a “stress-free” environment not otherwise available, said Kathy Cleaver, co-director of college counseling at Durham Academy.

“End of the year test times are dreadful. Students are also taking Advanced Placement tests and finals at the same time,” she said. “The students would love the chance to take the test over the summer.”

The College Board called this summer program a pilot program in order to test whether a summer SAT would be helpful to students. In a press release yesterday, College Board said the summer test program proceeded without proper consideration of how it reflected the College Board’s mission.

“The College Board continues to support the NSGT’s mission to provide educational opportunities for gifted and talented youth of all backgrounds,” the release said. “However, certain aspects of this specific program run counter to our mission of promoting equity and access, as well as to our beliefs about SAT performance.”

Offering another test for a small group of high school students contradicts the principles of fairness, said Jenna Hutcheson, a junior at The Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill.

“If you allow a selective group to take the test... the SAT is no longer something that can be used to equally determine a student’s academics,” Hutcheson said.

She added that she would find it unfair if she had to wait until October to take the exam, while other students had a summer opportunity. She noted, however, that the test itself would require the same amount of study, no matter when in the year it happened.

The University Prep program is marketed to high-performing students, but the price limits accessibility to wealthier applicants, Cleaver noted.

“If they are going to use these test scores, why choose this group of students?” she said. “Why not give the advantage to inner-city New York students, if anyone? College Board is based in New York, anyway.”

The College Board has not previously mentioned wanting to host a summer pilot for the SAT, said Christoph Guttentag, dean of undergraduate admissions. He was pleased to see the exclusive summer SAT was cancelled, although the idea of offering the SAT more frequently was a good impulse.

“My dealings with the [College Board] have reflected their want to seriously expand opportunities for students,” he said. “It would be good to have a pilot program that clearly reflects the board’s interest in [that].”

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