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News and Updates from the College Board: New England Regional Forum

 In AP, PSAT/NMSQT, Redesigned SAT, SAT

From February 28th through March 2nd, the College Board held its yearly New England Regional Forum in downtown Boston. This forum had a different feel from others we have attended since the May 2016 release of the redesigned SAT. Now that the new SAT has been in use for a while, the College Board, schools, and counselors are in stabilization mode. While the announcements at the Forum were not so dramatic, there were still some important developments.

Quick Takeaways for High School Counselors

  1. ETS, a company that administers tests on behalf of the College Board, is estimating that there is currently a 4,000 seat shortage in MA for the August SAT administration. The College Board is on the case, but students should be proactive and sign up early if they decide to sit for summer tests.
  2. For high schools that order 150 AP exams or more: the College Board will be enforcing mandatory split shipment to return tests for grading. This means that you must return your exams in two batches with a very quick turnaround time. Split shipment used to be optional, but the College Board stated that they made this change to ensure that all exams are graded on time.
    • The planned May 2018 calendar is as follows:
      New England Regional Forum

      Split Shipment Deadlines for May 2018 AP Exams

  3. The College Board has broadened its PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT scholarship partners. Students need to opt-in to Student Search in order to be discovered for these opportunities. Worried about email spam? Encourage students to make a new email address for college applications.
  4. If your school has any courses designated “Pre-AP” that were not designed by the College Board, you will need to change the title of the class before the 2020-2021 school year. This is explained below.

Pre-AP 2020: A Surprising New Offering

The College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) program has been around for more than 60 years, providing access to standardized, college-like curricula in a variety of subject areas. It is now expanding the suite of AP curricula to include Pre-AP, which will launch to the public in the 2020-2021 school year.

So, what is Pre-AP? From the name, it seems obvious– most people would expect that Pre-AP would entail AP preparation courses for high-level students, perhaps as an option that to replace an honors course. This is not what Pre-AP is meant to be.

  • Pre-AP is meant to “reach students outside of AP’s orbit” and bring them to the program. It is not an accelerated or “advanced” curriculum. Instead, the College Board hopes that it will replace regular, grade-level courses.
  • You may wonder: How does the College Board define students as being “within” or “outside” of the AP orbit? The company offers a free tool called AP Potential that links PSAT scores with correlations of success (AP score of 3+) in the different AP courses offered. Schools will often use this tool to identify students who might be successful in an AP course. It is logical that Pre-AP coursework would increase standardized test scores like the PSAT while also increasing visibility of AP coursework in schools– both factors that will expand AP participation in later years.
  • Schools can decide to implement these new Pre-AP offerings in whatever grade they want. While the research cohorts must implement them in 9th grade, the College Board reps said that it is likely that some schools will use Pre-AP at the middle school level.
  • The Pre-AP curriculum is described as “narrow and deep,” as opposed to “wide and shallow.” Also: while the College Board provides generalized curricular frameworks and supports to teachers of Pre-AP, it does not provide textbooks. Teachers are encouraged to use whatever texts they see fit.
  • Keep in mind that Pre-AP courses do not always map directly to a future AP course. For instance, there is an Algebra 1 Pre-AP class, but there is no such thing as an AP Algebra 1 course. Other courses due for release include Biology, English I, World History and Geography, and Visual and Performing Arts.
  • After the official launch of the College Board’s Pre-AP program, schools will no longer be allowed to use the term “Pre-AP” to designate their own, homegrown preparation courses. The name has actually been under copyright for a long time, but the College Board is only now enforcing it.

If you read all of this and feel that a Pre-AP course would benefit your 9th grade students, schools can apply to offer Pre-AP courses early as College Board research partners for the 2019-2020 school year.

New SAT Benefits for Low-Income Students

In December 2017, the College Board rolled out a school day testing option for the SAT. This new choice adds flexibility for schools and eases barriers to access for students who struggled to get to testing centers on weekends.

  • At the Forum, it was announced that the College Board would be increasing benefits for low-income students who take the SAT School Day. Students who receive fee waivers will now be eligible for unlimited free score sends. This applies to all income-eligible students who take the SAT on a national or School Day administration.
  • In Fall 2017, the College Board implemented a system to make it easier for high school counselors to connect students with fee waiver benefits. The “Click a Student” model is not completely automatic, but is an overall improvement:
    • When schools submit electronic rosters for the PSAT/NMSQT or SAT School Day, they are asked to check a box next to students who are eligible for fee waivers. Schools are not charged for eligible students.
    • When these students log in to the SAT registration site to sign up for a School Day SAT, they are asked to confirm whether or not they are eligible to receive fee waiver benefits. If they click “yes” and are eligible, students will receive what the College Board calls “Lifetime Benefits.”
    • Please note that this “Click a Student” program will not affect standard weekend administrations of the SAT—it is being rolled out for school day testing students, only. The College Board may decide to open it up to all programs in the future, but for now, students who receive waivers for national (weekend) testing administrations are going to need to request their code from a counselor or other school administrator.

The Future of Online SAT/PSAT Testing

The rollout of computer-based tests (CBT) continues to creep along for the College Board. Over the 2016-2017 school year, the company was quietly administering online SATs and PSATs to selected groups of students. Over the next few years, the College Board will begin to open up this option to more schools, starting at the PSAT 8/9 level and working up the line to PSAT/NMSQT and SAT, releasing one new test type a season. Before this testing option is available to the general public, the College Board will release practice materials in the digital format.

The simple act of putting the tests on a computer is not the most exciting development in the works. These first tests that will come out over the next few years are what the College Board calls “digital page turners”– they are effectively just digitized versions of a static test booklet. In the future, the College Board wants to move towards developing adaptive tests, which is a very different model. Adaptive tests adjust their content and difficulty as students answer questions correctly or incorrectly. When designed properly they can be more accurate than a static test, cut down on overall testing time, and improve test security by varying the test experience for each student. Jane Dapkus, VP of College Readiness Assessments at the College Board, noted that it will be a “long time” before the SAT releases a computer adaptive version. SAT-style reading passages pose a major challenge in moving to this model, as it is more difficult to adjust the content as you go.

How Colleges and Scholarship Partners Use “Student Search Service”

Anyone who works with high schoolers knows that there’s a lot of anxiety focused around finding the right schools. But did you know that colleges also work hard to find you? At the forum, we attended a session on the College Board Student Search Service®, a tool that has long provided college admission counselors student data for strategic marketing purposes.

For some high school juniors and seniors, it sometimes feels as though you are inundated with promotional mail from random colleges around the country. Instead of being an arbitrary choice, it is very likely that these schools used the Student Search Service in order to identify you as a possible candidate for their school. Colleges and universities purchase blocks of data tactically, but the truth is that they do generally need to cast a wide net to justify the cost and time spent identifying students.

You may be wondering—“Where does this data come from?”  Starting with the PSAT 10, the College Board collects information about students via short questionnaires on tests and from bigfuture.collegeboard.org, the College Board’s college and career planning tool. To comply with privacy laws, the company cannot share student data with outside parties without the student’s express permission. For those quick to opt out, you may want to think twice. Student Search is a major way that the College Board’s college and scholarship partners identify recipients.

A bit more about scholarships– the College Board has expanded its list of PSAT scholarship partners, and the existing partners that it does have are looking to deepen their funds for the next school year (and beyond). While a few of these are general need-based scholarships, several of the partners focus on specific heritage groups, such as Native American, Asian & Pacific Islander, Hispanic American, or African American students. Keep in mind, even if your student is not eligible for the scholarship programs pre-arranged by the College Board, colleges and universities may also offer their own merit or need-based aid packages based on your GPA and testing information from the Student Search Service.

Revamping SAT Subject Tests: A Glimmer of Hope

This old staple of the SAT Suite could use an update, but don’t expect it anytime soon.

  • The good news is: while we heard at last year’s forum that an SAT Subject Test revamp would take at least 5 years, Auditi Chakravarty, Vice President of SpringBoard and Pre-AP, stated that the work being done on AP and Pre-AP may hasten this timeline. Until then, students will have to contend with guessing penalties and limited preparation resources.

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