Dive Brief:

  • Prospective college students are still encountering problems sitting for the SAT and ACT, the two most common admissions tests — a trend that’s persisted since the spring.

  • The College Board, the SAT’s provider, announced this week that as of Oct. 27, some 96,000 students of the 312,000 who had registered to take the SAT this Saturday, would be unable to test. Thirty percent of the testing sites are closed.

  • Fewer students being able to take the exams will hurt test-makers’ revenue and could cause colleges to extend their test-optional policies.

Dive Insight:

The coronavirus largely shut down K-12 schools, some of the most common testing sites, during the spring and summer, limiting how many college applicants could take the SAT and ACT. The College Board attempted an at-home version of its test, but suspended it in June on the heels of a rocky administration of its digital Advanced Placement exams, which spurred a class-action lawsuit

The College Board said in a statement emailed to Education Dive on Tuesday it is still considering a remote version of the SAT and that it continues to deliver the SAT online in some schools. 

Most four-year colleges, acknowledging barriers for students taking entrance exams during the pandemic, are not requiring test scores for fall 2021. That put into overdrive the campaign to move institutions to test-optional policies. 

More issues continued into the fall. 

The College Board estimated that 178,600 of the roughly 402,000 students who were registered to take the SAT at the end of August were unable to test as of mid-month because of sites shutting down or reducing their capacity. Just over half of the testing centers were open at that point. 

The ACT does not release that kind of data, but it noted in an Oct. 22 statement that “COVID-19 continues to challenge us with the complexities of late test center closures” and “reduced capacity at sites due to social distancing requirements.”

An ACT spokesperson wrote in an email that around 215,000 students were registered to take the test last month. The pandemic has limited the number of testing seats and centers. However, the company continues to open up more capacity through “unlisted test sites,” which are hosted at students’ schools, as well as “pop up sites” at venues like hotels and conference centers, the spokesperson wrote. They did not address how many students were unable to test, though they noted the company plans to launch a remote proctoring option this school year.

The latest round of testing center cancellations is unsurprising, given the spike in coronavirus cases nationwide, said Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director of FairTest, a critic of testing providers and advocate for equitable uses of standardized exams. 

Schaeffer said his organization is fielding calls from high school students graduating in 2022, along with their parents and counselors, wanting to know if they will need test scores for college admission. FairTest is trying to persuade admissions officials to extend their test-optional policies in part because colleges need time to assess how the recent switch to those policies affected them, Schaeffer said.

“The reality is that testing requirements for fall 2022 will have to be announced before students who matriculate in fall 2021 have even completed their first semesters,” Schaeffer said.

A couple of colleges have already extended test-optional pilots until at least 2022, including Colgate University, in New York, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

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