(Photo: Image from creative commons)
by Katrina Gorauskas, staff writer
Over the past year and a half upperclassmen have struggled to take their SAT tests as COVID shut down testing sites throughout California ,with tests immediately postponed or cancelled.
Maria Carrillo High School senior Addie Brandt had three of her SATs cancelled and MCHS senior Anna Collins had five SATs cancelled over their junior and senior years. Major issues have arisen across the state because of COVID protocols, wildfires and lack of staffing, but the College Board has not publicly shared why each site is cancelled. In addition to closed test centers, the capacity has also been reduced when tests are administered in order to allow for social distancing. Since it was nearly impossible to take the SAT last year in California, the UC and CSU schools have temporarily suspended the SAT requirement of their applications, but other schools are not “test blind.” According to FairTest, an organization whose website identifies them as a group focused on “quality education and equal opportunity by promoting fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial evaluations,” 45% of schools in the nation still require the SAT to apply.
Even though the test is not necessarily required at Collins’s and Brandt’s top schools, Collins wanted to take it out of precaution. “I feel like in test optional schools if you get a good score it can still help you get in,” she said. “I do not think any of my schools require it, but I just figured that if I did well it would only help get in,” added Brandt.
When cancelling each SAT, the College Board did not notify students in a timely fashion and oftentimes did not notify them at all. Laytonville High School in Mendocino County was scheduled to have a test on August 28, but it got cancelled, and the College Board did not even notify the students. The school secretary said that they actually cancelled the SAT at their site a long time ago because they did not even have school in session at that time due to a staff shortage. They were surprised that the College Board still had their site listed as an option. For each of their tests at various sites, Brandt and Collins both had to look it up themselves to find out that their tests were cancelled. For each test administration there is a certain day that students must register by before it closes. Collins found out about her cancelled test too late and she said, “I was not able to reschedule for the same day. My August SAT got pushed to September, but all my other [SAT tests] I could not reschedule.
After many cancelled tests, Collins ended up taking two of her SATs over an hour away at Ukiah High School. The first one got rescheduled from Aug. 28 to Sep. 25 and then she had to take another test just a week later on Oct. 2 without receiving her previous scores. Brandt was actually able to take her SAT last June during her junior year after so many cancelled tests, but she had to drive over eight hours to Bend, Oregon.
Brandt said, “In all honesty, I took both the ACT and SAT, and I would say that the ACT felt much more organized, and they did not cancel as many testing sites.” The SAT is run by the company College Board and the ACT is run by ACT, Inc. Although both are deemed “non-profit,” last year the College Board generated $1.2 billion, and ACT, Inc. $353 million. The College Board controls Advanced Placement tests, SATs, and PSATs and if they cancel the tests then students are left with no other option.
“I would just say it is kind of irritating,” Collins said. “I do not love the [optional test] because I still feel pressure to take the test. It should either be required or test blind.” She also said she knew someone from Santa Rosa who was able to fly to a different state to take the test, but not everybody has that option, and this creates inequity. The majority of the other states still held their SAT tests as planned and did not close many test centers. In 2020, California only had 15% of test centers open which put California in the bottom third of the most difficult states to get a test in, despite being the most populous state.