Education Week - January 20, 2016 - (Page 8)
College Testing Season Marred by Score Delays, Snafus
By Caralee J. Adams
Score-report delays, technical
glitches, and changes to the ACT,
the SAT, and the Preliminary SAT/
National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test are adding angst to an
already stressful college-search process for some high school students
around the country this school year.
Testing companies' customer-service centers and online discussion
boards for school counselors have
been buzzing because of a series of
problems in recent months with tests
from the College Board and ACT Inc.
"It's been really frustrating-all
the changes hitting all at once," said
J. Gavin Bradley, the director of college counseling at Pace Academy,
an independent K-12 school in Atlanta. "College counselors are on the
frontlines having to try and manage
and explain all these changes while
things are not going well."
Officials at the two testing organizations are assuring the public
that despite some setbacks, the
new products and systems being
launched will eventually help students better prepare for college and
help counselors improve guidance.
Among those changes is ACT's
new enhanced writing test. About
half the 370,000 test-takers completed the optional essay at the first
administration on Sept. 12. Rather
than giving students one overall
score, the new test is scored by two
raters who evaluate each essay on
four domains. The process took
longer than anticipated, said Paul
Weeks, a senior vice president for
client relations with the Iowa City,
Those waiting for writing scores
eventually received them by the
end of October-within the projected five- to eight-week window-
but later than ACT had hoped and
tight for students staring at a Nov.
1 early-admission or scholarship
deadline, said Weeks.
Response and Consequences
"We know we caused some anxiety
out there," said Weeks. "We took it
very seriously and notified colleges
and universities and the recipients
of the scores, and we got alerts out
to the secondary space."
One of Bradley's seniors, for example, missed out on being considered for early-action admissions at
one college because of delayed ACT
scores and now must wait for a later
admission decision. "The kid had
done everything right, the college
was holding the file and reached a
point where they had to make a decision," Bradley said.
Many colleges were accommodating of the delays, extending deadlines and accepting fax copies or
screen shots of scores until the official ones arrived. Processes have
been established to prevent such
delays in the future, and scores were
delivered on time for October and
December ACT tests, said Weeks.
We know we caused
some anxiety out
there. We took it very
seriously. We notified
colleges ... and the
recipients of the
scores, and we got
alerts out to the
The College Board also experienced technical snafus with its SAT
and PSAT tests. In October, a new
electronic SAT-score reporting system that is meant to provide more
feedback on student performance
ran into delays.
The priority was to get scores first
to students and colleges and then to
high schools, said Stacy Caldwell,
the vice president of college-readiness assessments for the College
Board, based in New York City. She
said scores from the November and
December SAT were delivered to
colleges on time, and high schools
should receive the electronic SAT
scores by the end of January.
"We both understand the frustration and appreciate the patience of
the counselors as we work through
these changes," said Caldwell, who
said the delays stemmed from technical and data problems.
Concerned about the problems so
far, some counselors are steering
students away from taking the redesigned SAT when it debuts in the
spring. But Caldwell said the systems are in place to deliver scores
for the March SAT by May.
At the University of Houston, students who saw that their requested
SAT or ACT scores had not arrived
on campus and then contacted the
admissions office were granted
extra time to meet the Dec. 1 meritscholarship deadline.
"It caused a tremendous amount
of anxiety for our families," said
Jeffrey Fuller, the director of admissions there. He added that the
greater concern is the larger number of students who may not have
stepped forward about delay issues
and missed out on the opportunity.
Jim Rawlins, the director of admissions at the University of Oregon, also
provided some latitude for students
who had late scores and were applying for early action by Nov. 1. "We
knew about it in advance, watched the
impact, and were able to make sure it
didn't hurt students," he said.
Rocky PSAT Rollout
Scores for more than 4 million students who took the College Board's
new Preliminary SAT/NMSQT
exam in October were similarly de-
layed. The results were promised
for December, but made available
online Jan. 6 to schools and Jan. 7
to students. Then, some counselors
had trouble opening the massive file
report, and students were confused
about the need for an access code to
learn their scores.
Deb Donley, a school counselor at
New Trier High School in Winnetka,
Ill., said because the test was new,
counselors needed more time to get
familiar with the new PSAT scores
before having to help students interpret them.
College Board officials said the
organization posted help resources
for educators online and is trying to
respond to concerns. Caldwell noted
that in the six days after scores were
made available 1 million high school
students accessed their scores online. She said the expanded, interactive portal will be a richer resource
for students trying to improve their
While the testing companies are
trying to answer questions, they are
not likely to disclose their behindthe-scenes troubles, said Joyce
Smith, the chief executive officer of
the National Association for College
Admission Counseling. But counselors are feeling pressure from
families for more information on
results and delays. "We can't make
these groups do anything, except be
aware there are problems and be as
responsive as possible," she said.
Visit the HIGH SCHOOL & BEYOND blog, which
tracks news and trends on this issue.
New Equivalency Tests
Make More Inroads
| HIGH SCHOOL & BEYOND | The GED appears to have lost
its foothold as the dominant high school equivalency test
in Wyoming, one more sign that the high school testing
market is undergoing profound shifts.
Only 49 people took the GED in Wyoming in 2015,
according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, while 1,993 took
the High School Equivalency Test, or HiSET, a competitor
introduced last year by the Educational Testing Service and
Iowa Testing Programs.
According to ETS, 19 states use the HiSET. Twelve states
are using the Test Assessing Secondary Completion, or
TASC, another new GED competitor, according to CTB/
McGraw-Hill, which makes the test.
Until the appearance of the TASC and HiSET, the
marketplace was dominated by the General Educational
Development test. Wyoming is testimony to the changes
that are taking shape on the high school testing market.
Fewer people have been taking the GED, and fewer have
been passing. Passing rates had hovered around 70 percent,
but had fallen to 60 percent a year ago.
The two tests yielded differing passing rates in Wyoming:
73 percent for the GED in 2015 versus 89 percent for the
HiSET, according to the Tribune Eagle. Pearson reworked
the GED in 2014, making it more rigorous, to reflect the
Common Core State Standards.
Why Should Researchers Speak Up
In Debates About Education?
| INSIDE SCHOOL RESEARCH | What do researchers go into
the education field for? Is it pure interest in puzzles, taking
8 | EDUCATION WEEK | January 20, 2016 | www.edweek.org
apart aspects of learning and schooling to see what makes
them tick, or is it the drive to make education better and
more meaningful for students?
In a commentary for Education Week, Jeffrey R. Henig
of Teachers College, Columbia University makes an
impassioned appeal to the latter motivation, urging
researchers to become involved in education debates more
actively than publishing in journals.
"The temptation can be strong to just say no, and lie low,"
said Henig, a professor of political science and education.
But the often-bitter debates about issues like teacher
evaluations, charter schools, and achievement gaps are
exactly the places where scholars need to step in, he said:
"The more public discourse about education becomes
partisan, ideological, simplistic, and simple-minded, the
greater the need becomes for at least some reasonable
voices to be heard-voices that distill and accurately reflect
what research has to say."
The need for more help and support from researchers is
only likely to deepen as the Every Student Succeeds Act
rolls out. The Institute of Education Sciences is already
trying to build more partnerships among educators and
scholars to meet the law's new evidence standards for
How can a researcher contribute meaningfully to
education debates without getting mired in acidic backand-forths? Patrick McCarthy, writing for the William T.
Grant Foundation, calls for researchers not to shy away
from "inconvenient truths" they find in their own work and
"Evidence doesn't turn itself into policy, especially
when it contradicts prevailing paradigms or entrenched
funding streams," he writes. "If we are serious about a
What Works movement, we can't allow ourselves or other
decisionmakers to pick and choose which results we want to
-SARAH D. SPARKS
Recruiting Out-of-State Teachers
Is a Common Phenomenon
| TEACHER BEAT | According to federal data, some states
issue more than half their initial teaching credentials to
teachers who are prepared out of state.
The U.S. Department of Education's Title II website
houses state-reported data collected under the Higher
Education Act; the most recent comes from 2012-13.
According to the data, Wyoming granted the highest
percentage of out-of-state certificates, 72 percent.
Wyoming has just one university that prepares teachers,
and apparently an oil boom has made it easier to raise
salaries and attract talent from elsewhere.
Other states where half or more of teachers hail from
out of state? Alaska and Hawaii, both of which have had to
import talent from many sectors over the years, are on the
list. But so are Maryland, Nevada, North Carolina, North
Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington state,
and West Virginia.
Some of those states are currently struggling with teacher
shortages, so this makes some sense.
This phenomenon is a good reminder that teacher supply
and demand issues are complicated: The idea of a "teacher
shortage" needs to be approached with a lot more specificity.
Some fields, like special education, are in an almostconstant state of shortage, while others, like elementary
teaching, are more flush. Regional shortages can pop up
even in states with good pipelines, because teachers aren't
evenly distributed across communities and geographies.
There's one caveat to the federal tally: It's not entirely
clear how accurate the Title II data are for every state.
Alabama, New York, and New Jersey reported issuing not
a single certificate to anyone trained out of state, which
doesn't on first glance seem correct.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 20, 2016
Education Week - January 20, 2016
ESSA Challenges Ahead for States
25 Years In, TFA Faces Tensions, Courts Change
Flint, Mich., Reels From Water Crisis
Opt-Out Activists Eye Fresh Battlefronts
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Open Ed. Resources Get Boost From ESSA
News in Brief
Book Highlights Practical Guidance For Teaching Reading
College Testing Season Marred By Score Delays, Snafus
Blogs of the Week
Unions on Defensive as High Court Hears Dispute Involving Fees
In Home Stretch, Obama Vows to Push On Education Priorities
Ed. Dept. Gets Advocates’ Views On Preparing ESSA Regulations
DONALD M. FEUERSTEIN: The ‘Inconvenient Truth’ of Student Debt
JAMES LYTLE: The NCAA’s Chokehold On Secondary Schooling
FLORINA RODOV: Your College Essay Isn’t a Selfie
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
RICHARD WEISSBOURD: College Admission 2.0: Service Over Self
Education Week - January 20, 2016