The August SAT Is Cancelled For Nearly Half Of Students


The College Board, the Manhattan-based nonprofit that administers the SAT college admissions test, said today that of the 402,000 students signed up to take it on August 29, at least 178,600 will not be able to do so. 

“As a result of local test centers deciding to close or reduce capacity due to covid-related health and safety measures,” says a statement posted on the College Board’s website, only 54% of locations have said they will be open and some of those are limiting capacity.

The statement links to a “test center closings page” where students can search for information on the location where they were expecting to take the exam. More testing locations could close in the next 11 days. Students should check both their email and the closings page daily until the morning of the tests.

The statement lays out the safety protocols at the centers. Students and proctors must wear masks throughout the three-hour test. Students will be seated at least six feet apart and they will be asked to verify that they do not have Covid-19 symptoms and are not violating travel or quarantine restrictions.

The College Board canceled test dates for more than 1 million students this spring after the pandemic forced schools across the country to close. Some states like Michigan and Connecticut give the test during the school day to all 11th graders in public classrooms. Most students pay to take the exam on weekends inside school buildings. The test costs either $49.50 or $64.50 for a version that includes an essay. Some student took the test in March but the May and June tests were not held. In April, College Board CEO David Coleman announced that the organization hoped to offer an online SAT in September, but that plan was abandoned in early June.

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, also known as Fairtest, a 35-year-old nonprofit that opposes the use of standardized tests in admissions, had rare praise for the College Board today. “The College Board does deserve credit for the transparency of this announcement, for publishing hard data about test registrations/cancellations (while recognizing that the numbers will change), and for requiring everyone at test sites to wear masks,” Fairtest executive director Bob Schaeffer said in a statement. 

But in a phone interview with Forbes, Schaeffer had harsher words. “It’s irresponsible to do mass standardized testing during a pandemic,” he says. “People are going to be exposed.” In July, two students who took the ACT admissions test, the sole competitor to the SAT, tested positive for Covid-19 after sitting for the exam at an Oklahoma high school. ACT has not commented on the health of those students and whether others at the test center contracted the virus.

In its announcement today, College Board repeated a striking statement it made earlier this year. It urged colleges “to equally consider students for admission who are unable to take the test due to Covid-19.”

The influential National Association of College Admission Counseling, an organization with 14,000 members who work in college admissions or high school college counseling, has put out a call for schools to pledge that test-optional means test-optional and that applicants who do not submit scores will not be given lesser consideration than those who do. Some 500 schools including Harvard and Yale have signed on.

Fairtest has tracked 410 school that have adopted test-optional policies for the coming admissions seasons. That’s in addition to 1,040 schools that have adopted such policies permanently.

Florida, where cases have spiked, has several schools that are holding out. The University of Florida, which has more than 35,000 undergraduates, and Florida State University, with 32,000, still require the tests.

According to the College Board’s site, more than 60 Florida testing centers have canceled the August 29 test. Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center shows that of the people tested in Florida, more than 15% are positive for Covid-19. The CDC and the World Health Organization recommend that schools don’t reopen unless they have a positive case rate of under 5%. College Board didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment on whether it believes it is safe to give the exam in Florida.

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