College Board controversy
College Board — the seemingly infallible, distinguished organization that lies at the foundation of high school education and college preparation. The monopoly it has over high school education is overwhelming — more than 6.7 million students took the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and pre-SAT tests in 2016 alone, according to Maria Eugenia Alcón-Heraux, College Board director of media relations. Colleges rely on the results of these tests to gauge a student’s academic skills and ability. Its broad influence, however, sets it up for the harsh criticisms of its failure in the recent SAT scandals.
Nationwide controversy has erupted over reports that the August SAT was previously administered in the Asian sector a year ago. Students from South Korea and China had already taken the same test in October 2017 and had posted the questions and answers on social media before the August SAT 2018. With reports of some students already knowing what would be on the test, rumors of cancellation circled around the internet.
What bothers me as a senior, however, is not only the problem itself but also College Board’s lack of proactivity around the subject. It took more than two days for College Board to issue a statement about its position on the August SAT. For those of us who needed this chance to better our SAT scores, this was time during which we agonized over the question of whether or not its decision would single-handedly bring down our efforts in getting into our target range of colleges. Many seniors, including me, planned on taking the August SAT and saving the subject tests for October 2018. Cancellation would drive our plans back and potentially limit our college applications.
It’s not just the August SAT either. The previous SAT in June had sparked controversy as well, setting an unreasonable curve that resulted in lower scores even though there were fewer questions missed. The June SAT was considered an “easy” test because of the lower level in the difficulty of the questions. However, “easy” tests end up punishing its takers more because the scores are scaled lower for fewer questions missed. On top of the fact that it was an “easy” test, the College Board also retracted four questions from the Reading and Writing portions, reducing the number of questions to use for comparison between students and steepening the already-steep curve of an “easy” test. Usually a raw score of 47-51 on the Math portion would accomodate for a 700, but a raw score of 54 was required on the June SAT to result in a 700 — three points out of the typical range. In response to this incongruity, College Board also provided an unsatisfactory answer that the scores were accurate for the majority of test takers who already suffer the consequences of “easy” tests because of careless mistakes and insufficient time to finish.
In light of the recent August SAT, Jon Boeckenstedt, enrollment and marketing chief at DePaul University in Chicago, attests to the fact that the reuse of old questions is not uncommon on the SAT. However, the difference is that the August SAT was the exact same test as the one given in Asia. And even so, why not instead choose a method where cheating across countries is thoroughly impossible? Why risk the security of millions of students across the United States? The College Board’s silence on answering these questions is deafening.
Rather than accept the responsibility and hold themselves accountable for their errors, College Board and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) seem to blame the student body for the security of tests, or the lack thereof. In a “USA Today” article, the College Board, and by association ETS, issued the statement, “We recognize that organizations and individuals will consistently try to challenge the system and find new ways to cheat, which is why we continue to enhance our test security measures.” In response to the August SAT, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against College Board by a father whose daughter took the SAT in Florida. The suit mainly seeks for compensation for everyone who was affected in a similar way “in an amount to be proven at trial.”
Although the College Board may have tried to patch the unreasonable scoring curve from the June SAT with a more standard curve from a test that was already used, there are 80,000 international students enrolled in U.S. high schools alone, and 58 percent account for those from China. In this case, it is not the fault of the takers but the organization who failed in the security of its own intellectual property and did not rise to take the blame.
By Haixin Guo, Manager
Photo by Jessie Dixon