College Board waiving fee for students retaking SAT after flaw

BY VALERIE STRAUSS June 16, 2015 The College Board said late Monday night that it will now waive fees for any student in the United States who took the June 6 SAT but wants to retake it because of irregularities with the administration of the exam. The unprecedented decision was made after the College Board was forced to discard two of 10 sections of the SAT because of printing errors on test booklets — and students and parents expressed concerns about the reliability of the scores.

The College Board, which owns the SAT, has said repeatedly that the final scores would be as reliable as if the entire test had been graded because the SAT is designed to collect enough information even if the entire test is not scored. Shortly after the June 6 test printing error was discovered, the College Board said it would not score one section, but then said two sections would be discarded. That, according to FairTest, or the nonprofit National Center for Free and Open testing, represents 22 percent of the SAT.

Students and parents have been calling the College Board asking for a free make-up of the SAT and/or refunds. One Long Island, N.Y., student named Julia Ellinghaus filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn Federal Court seeking class-action status for all June 6 SAT test-takers against the College Board and the Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT, according to the New York Daily News in this story. She is seeking unspecified monetary damages and suggests that students be able to retake the test for free.

That’s just what the College Board has decided to do. At 9 p.m. Monday, it updated a statement on the College Board website about the printing error, putting the news of a free SAT retake for June 6 test-taker near the bottom. Zach Goldberg, director of media relations for the College Board, noted the change in an e-mail, which said:

“We remain confident in the reliability of scores from the June 6 administration of the SAT and don’t want to cause undue anxiety for students by making them believe they need to sit for the test again. However, we have waived the fee for the October SAT administration for students who let us know that their testing experience was negatively affected by the printing error and we will continue to do so.”

It is not known exactly how many students took the SAT on June 6, but about 487,000 people registered for it, and all are affected, said the College Board.

The problem developed when students taking the SAT on June 6 discovered that the time allotted for one section, the last reading section, said 25 minutes rather than the 20 minutes they were supposed to have. Because of the way the test is administered, some students were taking the final math section at the same time as some were taking the reading section with the misprinted timing instruction, the College Board said.

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How many students will choose to retake the test — which is next given in October — is unclear. It is also unclear as to whether June 6 students can see the results of the June 6 test before deciding to retake it for free.

Most of the students taking the June 6 test were thought to be high school juniors planning to apply to college this coming fall and winter for admission in fall 2016. For students who want to apply as early as possible to schools with rolling college admissions, an October SAT test date could mean a delayed application because some schools start accepting applications as early as Sept. 1.

FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer said in a statement: “The decision not to score two entire test sections is unprecedented in the history of the SAT. It is not justified by anything we have seen in the published literature about the exam.”

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

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