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School Day SAT Administrations and More from The College Board Forum

 In SAT

In the last week of October, college counselors, teachers, higher-ed administrators, and other educational professionals from around the world gathered for the College Board’s National Forum in New York City. The 3-day program spanned a wide array of topics, covering everything from testing accommodations, to discussions of how high schools use SAT Suite testing data.

Below are some of the major topics of discussion and important takeaways from the Forum:

Official SATs May Now be Administered on School Days

Jane Dapkus, VP of College Readiness Assessments at the College Board, announced that schools may now elect to administer the SAT on a school day rather than requiring students to travel to a testing center on the weekend. Schools have the option to sign up for this new offering, with testing administrations beginning in December.

Besides increasing overall access to the SAT, there are several other benefits to School Day testing. Instead of testing in a novel environment, students will be familiar with the rooms and proctors, as schools will use their own personnel and locations for the exam. High schools should keep in mind that there is some “legwork” required to get this going– test center supervisors must complete an online training in order to lead School Day SAT administrations.

Computer-based SATs are Coming… Eventually

While pilot computer-based SAT administrations have been occurring for a while now, there were no conference talks on what will undoubtedly be a game-changing revolution to the way that students and schools approach standardized testing. When asked directly, Dapkus acknowledged that a computer-based rollout is in the works. She noted that the first iteration of online SATs will be so-called “digital page-turners,” meaning that they will essentially display the test as students would see it on paper, but on a screen. She stated that, after this initial digital test is released, the College Board will begin the process of moving from this static test to adaptive, dynamic versions of the SAT. Adaptive tests adjust difficulty as examinees answer questions correctly or incorrectly– an unfamiliar experience for most students. When questioned about when we could expect data and research for online tests to go public, Dapkus stated that the College Board is aiming to release study results from the first generation of online testing about a year from now.

GPA May be Flawed, but it’s Still the Best Single Indicator of Success in College

In a session that discussed the usefulness of SAT scores at a practical level, university officials acknowledged that, although GPA data is the single best indicator of first-year performance, it is still far from infallible. Tim Brunold, Dean of Admission at USC, noted that his admissions team has found that the predictive validity of GPA has plummeted as grade inflation has increased. His admissions team has discovered that grades correlate with first-year performance only about half of the time.

Data is Powerful when Used Properly

One of the overarching themes of this conference was that data from the SAT Suite of Assessments is not useful in isolation. High school administrators and college admissions personnel may differ on how and why they use College Board tests, but all parties agree that using these scores in an effective way requires planning, consistency, and a healthy dose of skepticism.

Janet Rapelye, Dean of Admissions at Princeton, prefaced her discussion of how Princeton uses test scores with a statement that the Redesigned SAT, like the old SAT, seems to test what it has always tested. She noted that, while SAT scores measure “some pieces of intelligence,” they do nothing to inform about qualities that she considers essential to her student body, like perseverance and creativity.

Rapelye and Jim Rawlins, Assistant VP for Enrollment at University of Oregon, emphasized that it will take about 3-4 more years of SAT score data before higher-ed institutions are able to begin identifying whether the Redesigned SAT can be used as a valid indicator to help predict outcomes that matter to colleges, such as retention rates over the entirety of a degree program. In Rapelye’s words, discussion of the predictive validity of the Redesigned SAT is “premature.”

Of course, there is a lot more to the College Board’s suite of assessments than just the flagship SAT. In a panel about how high schools are actually using SAT Suite data to inform instruction, representatives from Byron Center High School (MI) and Appoquinimink School District (DE) described how their schools interwove the various PSATs (8/9, 10, NMSQT) with their own curriculum and assessments.

Scott Joseph, Principal of Byron Center High School (BCHS), reminded the panel’s audience that it is easy to be “data rich, but implementation poor,” something that his school took great pains to avoid. Between 2010 and 2017, BCHS has engaged in the careful process of standardizing their academic courses for consistency between teachers. In the beginning, this meant ensuring that all department curricula were aligned with each other, as well as to the state standards. After this, departments began to administer common formative and summative assessments for all students at the same level, in order to make more meaning of their schoolwide data.

Such standardization at the institutional level paved the way for BCHS to explicitly connect course outcomes to state standards, which were then linked to SAT/PSAT scores and benchmarks. The BCHS reps noted that they have found certain PSAT subscores to be more closely linked to academic success than others. This underscores the point that secondary schools, like colleges, must perform their own data analysis to ensure that SAT suite data is being used appropriately. While the Redesigned SAT and PSAT are still “young,” BCHS reports that the school has seen statistically significant improvements in test data when comparing its students’ results from 2016 and 2017.

Colleges: Data Analysis Sounds Scary? ACES is Here to Help

Compiling test data is getting easier all the time, but making sense of it is no simple task. The College Board has long provided a free data analysis tool called the Admitted Class Evaluation Service (ACES) to colleges and universities. The ACES system helps institutions track and examine relationships between predictors (e.g. SAT, High School GPA) and outcomes (e.g. first-year GPA, degree completion). In 2018, the College Board will be relaunching this tool with fully modernized analysis capability and a sleek new interface. While many colleges and universities already have their own systems for crunching data for admissions, placement, and retention, the ACES may help less data-driven schools “test the waters” to see how implementing a system may streamline their processes.

Supporting Students with Disabilities

In the past year, the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office rolled out a “new, streamlined process” for testing accommodation requests. This system particularly benefits schools that use formalized accommodations processes like 504 plans or IEPs, as long as they effectively show that the student’s demonstrated needs also apply to taking a College Board assessment. Schools that use alternative accommodations systems have a bit more work to do in order to illustrate that:

  • their processes are rigorous
  • requested accommodations are made by qualified professionals
  • accommodations are appropriate for the student’s diagnosis, and appropriate for the SAT

Jill Green and Dr. Donna Zanolla from the SSD office were quick to confront one major misunderstanding about College Board’s test accommodations: the aim is not to give all students a chance at getting a perfect score. Instead, the goal is to enable all students to access the test content. For instance, low processing speed may not be a legitimate reason for accommodations if a student manages to finish most of the test in the given time and does not currently use this accommodation on school tests. A student may be denied accommodations for this issue if there is not substantial proof that it is required.

Green and Zanolla emphasized that most families do not realize what they are asking for when they request certain accommodations– particularly extended time. Since students are not allowed to move around except during short breaks, 50% or 100% extended time can be, in their words, “cruel,” if it is not strictly necessary. Instead, Green and Zanolla urge families and administrators to be thoughtful and creative with their requests. In place of extra time, students may be able to receive individualized combinations of other accommodations, such as extra breaks and large-block answer sheets, which better target their specific needs.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and feedback!

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