Standardized tests find way around COVID-19 complications

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In a typical school year, Kingswood Oxford offers PSAT/NMSQT and PACT testing for the juniors. However, with the coronavirus pandemic, the school has decided to offer seniors the SAT and ACT during the school day. 

On Wednesday, Sept. 23 and Wednesday Oct. 7, seniors were allowed to take the SAT and ACT tests, respectively, during the school day for the first time in the school’s history. According to Director of College Advising Jami Silver, the school offered in-school standardized testing this year because of the pandemic. “There were some students who hadn’t tested,” Ms. Silver said. “Almost 50% of our students had been registered and locked out of a test, so we offered it here for many of our students. For some students it was the only time they took the test.” 

Ms. Silver also said that the school wanted to provide students with a safe space to take the standardized tests. “We felt like it was a safe place for them to take the test, as opposed to going to a different high school,” she said. “Because every public high school in Connecticut offers the SAT [that day], we also wanted our students to have that opportunity in school.”

Many seniors said they felt safe taking the standardized tests at school. “I think that taking the ACT at school was very convenient and it made me feel safer than if I took it at a different school,” senior Chaitanya Karanam said. 

Although the testing was optional, Ms. Silver estimates that about 60 seniors took each of the standardized tests in school. 

Associate Director of College Advising Peggy Clark contacted the College Board and the ACT, the two companies that administer the test, because she has a lot of experience in working with these two companies. “I already had experience working with the College Board for their testing events, with the ACT and the pre ACT that we’ve done for a number of years,” she said. “It made sense for me to be the one to investigate what’s called SAT school day and ACT district testing.”

SAT school day and ACT district testing are programs that allow schools to test their students on their own campuses on a test that is not marked as a national test date. 

On Wednesday, Oct. 14, juniors gathered in the Soby and Hewett Gyms to take the PSAT. The pre-SAT is co-sponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). Students who perform exceptionally well are recognized by the NMSC for their outstanding scores. 

Since this test is co-sponsored by the NMSC, students who chose to learn remotely did not qualify to take the NMSQT. However, the school’s College Advising is still encouraging those students to take a different practice SAT at home. “We gave them the information about the alternatives to qualifying for the National Merit, along with the option to sign up to take a practice as with Summit,” Ms. Silver said.

The college advisors also checked with the Head of the Upper School Dan Gleason and Head of School Tom Dillow to make sure that these tests could be conducted within the pandemic guidelines. Normally, up to three students would share a table, but in order to space all the students at least six feet apart, each student sat at their own table. 

Many students felt that the precautions that the school took in the test room were sufficient. “In the past, there were three people at a table but this year they gave us our own tables and everyone was socially distanced,” junior Aakash Gunturu said. “I think that it was safe in the test room.”

Both Ms. Clark and Ms. Silver think that the role of standardized testing has changed because of the pandemic. “There are very few schools, although Florida is still kind of a holdout, that are still requiring test scores,” Mrs. Clark said. “Some of them have been talking about going test optional even before the pandemic, so they said, ‘we’re going to do this as a pilot for three years or more”

Mrs. Clark also explained that in addition to being test optional, some colleges are now test blind, which means that if students send their scores in, those colleges will not consider those scores when admitting students. 

Despite the complications brought by COVID-19, through the dedication of the college advising office KO students were still able to fit in standardized testing.