Education Week - January 20, 2016 - (Page 8)

College Testing Season Marred by Score Delays, Snafus Holdups frustrated students, counselors 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 BLOGS 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, Iowa-based company. 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 secondary space." PAUL WEEKS ACT Inc. 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 college-readiness skills. 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. -CATHERINE GEWERTZ 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 | 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 school improvement. 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 others'. "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 act upon." -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. -STEPHEN SAWCHUK

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
Report Roundup
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