STUDENTS WILL BE ABLE to take the SAT at home if the school doesn't resume this fall, College Board officials announced Wednesday, outlining a new timetable and digital format for the college entrance exam.
"We know students and educators are worried about how the coronavirus may disrupt the college admissions process, and we want to do all we can to help alleviate that anxiety during this very demanding time," College Board CEO David Coleman said during a press call Wednesday. "In the unfortunate and unlikely possibility that schools do not open this fall, the College Board will be ready to provide a digital SAT at home."
Coleman characterized the scenario as "increasingly unlikely" and one that would require at-home proctoring on a scale never before seen.
"We would much rather see schools reopen," he said. "But we will be ready."
College Board officials said they are experimenting with a variety of security software that can, for example, lock the entire computer other than the software that allows students to take the test, as well as use the device's camera and microphone to monitor any movement and noise.
College Board officials compared an at-home digital administration of the SAT to how the organization is currently allowing 3 million students to take modified versions of AP exams at home.
"If we are forced to deliver a digital SAT at home, we will double our efforts to confront the digital divide," Coleman said, adding that the College Board is prepared to work with states and school districts to provide technology or Wi-Fi hot spots to ensure that any student who wishes to take the SAT can do so.
Should public health officials say it's safe, the College Board plans to offer weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of the calendar year, beginning in August. Students will be able to register in May for the August, September, and October administrations, with priority going to students expected to graduate in 2021 who do not yet have an SAT score.
For states and school districts that had planned to offer 770,000 students a chance to take the SAT for free during the school day in the spring but couldn't because of school closures, the College Board will provide a make-up day in the fall.
As of early April, 760,000 students in the class of 2021 already received an SAT score, College Board officials said, but they also estimate that about 1 million first-time SAT takers were unable to test this spring because of school closures, the vast majority of whom would have taken the test through a school day administration.
The news comes as dozens of colleges and universities drop the requirement that students submit an SAT or ACT score to be considered for admission – a decision that was already gaining popularity among schools trying to diversify their student bodies but one that the coronavirus pandemic has now accelerated.
Some higher education experts see this as a watershed moment for the admission requirement.
"The uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the announcement that the College Board has temporarily suspended the administration of the SAT as it seeks 'an at-home style solution' will most certainly continue the trend towards placing less weight on standardized tests," Ronald Ehrenberg, a professor at Cornell University and the director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, says.
In the first seven days of April alone, at least 30 schools announced test-optional admissions policies for the high school class of 2021, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, and another 44 temporarily waived testing requirements, including elite private and public colleges and universities like Williams College, Tufts University, Virginia Tech and the University of California system.
College Board officials said that, because of the unprecedented pandemic, they support college and university admission decisions that offer students flexibility when it comes to submitting an SAT score or not – though they've been critical of the move in the past.
"We support colleges and our members totally in whatever flexibilities they adopt in these very challenging times," Coleman said.
"This virus hits students very differently depending on their circumstances," he added. "There has never been an event that I can recall that's laid bare the division and inequalities in our society."
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