The College Board Fails the Test, Again!

Recently the College Board again stuck its foot in its proverbial mouth and for me has reopened the never-ending debate about its role in higher education (I’ll be blogging more on this soon). But the latest flub from CB makes us wonder if they need to just put Olivia Pope on retainer to rescue them from a seemingly infinite string of blunders. The latest, which has yet to be named but I’ll call “Summergate,” again starkly raises  questions from “What role does the College Board play?” and “Is the College Board a self-appointed gatekeeper to higher education?” to “Is the College Board driving elitism and bias in education?” and “Is the College Board biased against low income, urban, and minority students?”

The latest blunder comes in the form of CB associating itself with an uber-elite and highly expensive ($4,500 per child) summer program to “pilot” a summer SAT administration, which has never been offered before. The sheer blind stupidity of this decision makes you wonder about who we are trusting to hold the keys to our nation’s colleges and universities, but is also not an isolated incident. You would think that after the Long Island cheating scandal last year they would have a better handle on how to handle public relations, but it seems that this bastion of testing continues to fail these tests.  Can you imagine how that meeting went?

 *The meeting and dialogue are totally made up and not intended to be factual.

When you think about it, it’s not hard at all to see the problems with this “pilot”. Here are just a few:

1. The program was associated with a test prep company that for years has stopped just short of calling the College Board the Devil.

2. Any pilot that was part of a $4,500 program would be seen as elitist and biased. Period.

3. A special SAT piloted to a small group of gifted students would raise all kinds of questions about the validity of the scoring curve with such a small skewed sample.

4. Reporting the test as taken in June when it was actually in August is deceptive.

5. Kids taking an SAT in the summer without the pressures of school will probably perform better than the vast majority of kids, who have to take it during the school year.

I could go on and on, but I think that’s a great place to stop. The good news in all of this is that the College Board was finally convinced by the uproar to cancel the summer “pilot.” Here is part of their statement canceling the summer administration and their association with the program:

“Unfortunately, this initiative proceeded without proper consideration of whether all aspects of the program were aligned with our mission,” Kathleen Steinberg, a spokeswoman for the College Board, said in a statement. “Given what senior management has learned in the past few days, we informed N.S.G.T. earlier today that it would be inappropriate for an official SAT administration to take place at the conclusion of the University Prep program.”

I struggle to believe that “senior management” did not have to approve any scheduling of a special administration of the SAT. These special administrations are rarer than Haley’s Comet. Oddly, this past school year was unique in that there were 2 special administrations scheduled (that I know of). The first was for the Idaho school district and, while noteworthy, this special administration did not cause any ruckus. That administration was given to a public school system and was contracted with Idaho’s Department of Education, which provided the test for free to all kids in 11th grade. The NSGT program was given to a small number of kids who were in a for-pay out-of-school program delivered by a private entity. That’s very different!

In the end this special test was cancelled and the only real impact is College Board has more egg on its face than usual.

Links that might be interesting:

  • What FairTest had to say
  • What said
  • Here’s one from USAToday
  • TheChoice blogpost from the NY Times
  • Here is College Board’s page on the Idaho SAT School Day
  • Our good friend Jenn Cohen took CB to task on twitter and on her blog (she’s great)!


Here is our blog about the changes to the SAT security measures sparked by the cheating scandal last year.

  • Sheldon the WordNerd

    Great article Akil.  I didn’t know about the Idaho test, although I remember some discussion about a school day administration here in Texas.  Don’t think it ever happened though.  Not sure if the Idaho test’s 100% “fair” but it certainly qualifies as a pilot with a sample size large enough to mean something, and it’s administered during the regular school year. 

  • Debbie Stier

    Oh, well now you’re taking me down the rabbit hole…because I need to read all of those links.

    Of course, I’ve been under a rock and had no idea about any of this, so thanks for calling to my attn.  Will be back this evening to read all of those links.

  • Akil Bello

    Let me know your thought when (if) you reach the bottom of that hole. I’m still digging at it, trying to find out how many kids in Idaho took that test which they paid 1million for.

  • Erik

    The College Board had July or August tests from 1946 until 1974. I suppose all that hair got to be a little too much in the end! So, it is hard to see how the CB needed a pilot program.

  • BellCurves

    Wow thanks Erik. We’ll have to research that.

  • Debbie Stier

    Erik the Red is this treasure trove of fun facts about the SAT.

    Still haven’t clicked on links…head down, behind scd. …. working my tail off…but it’s book marked!

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