It’s official: in true 21st century fashion, the SATs will be administered online starting this spring with a new format that is expected to be more accessible to the modern student — but also presents a few extra obstacles for local school districts.
“There is an enormous shift away from the industrial educational model, and more of a recognition of student's individual abilities,” Matthew Sarosy, principal of Lynbrook High School, said. “And what that means is yes, less of a reliance on long standardized exams.”
The new format features more changes than just a lack of pen and paper. The exam will have two sections rather than three, and will also be an hour shorter. The PSATs also reflect those changes, and districts have been using those tests to get accustomed to the new testing style.
“It was a shorter test, which was good for the kids,” Richard Schaffer, principal of East Rockaway High School, said. “There didn’t seem to be many students who struggled to get through it.
“I think they're more used to digital platforms for testing now, so it's not totally brand new,” he added. “State testing is moving towards online platforms also.”
The extensive planning that the new SATs necessitate for school districts doesn’t stop at technology support. Historically, SATs are often administered on weekends so the traditional school day is not disturbed. But along with this new digital shift, the College Board is also requiring that schools who administer tests on the weekends become a national testing site, Sarosy explained.
This means that if Lynbrook were to continue to offer the test on the weekends, anyone outside of the district taking the SATs could sign up to take that test in the high school with Lynbrook students. This creates several new concerns related to the logistics of administering the test.
“So what the College Board is forcing us to do is to bring the tests in during the week — because if you do it during the week, then you can test only your own students,” Sarosy said. “But then that creates an incredible disruption to the academic process. We did that for the PSATs and it created an incredible amount of interruption to instruction.”
Furthermore, the district only has the ability to support the technology of Lynbrook students. Students from outside the district would have to use the district guest network — meaning an entirely different wifi, different tech support needs, and a new field of problems. These are all costs that fall on individual districts, Sarosy said, as they must use their own resources to administer exams.
The College Board did not respond to the Herald’s request for comment.
Aside from the College Board’s new protocols on weekend testing, the consensus appears to be that the changes to the SATs will generally have a positive effect on students.
“Some students will struggle to get through a longer test, so it will benefit them,” Schaffer said. “I think that anytime we shorten the test without reducing the integrity of the test, it’s in the students’ best interest, just in terms of stamina.”
It also appears that students are more comfortable practicing for the SATs. Sarosy said that the numbers for Lynbrook students taking practice exams went up significantly, with 179 sophomores and juniors signing up for the PSAT. He has noticed that as more and more colleges and universities become test-optional, more students are willing to take standardized exams. It is perhaps a sign of a philosophical shift, he said.
“So if a student does well on an exam, they submit their scores,” Sarosy said. “And if they don't do well, they don't. So I think that kind of mentality encourages students to give it a try, because there's less to lose.”
The practice tests will help students feel more comfortable taking the real thing, Schaffer hopes.
“I think it's important that the kids are not at a disadvantage when going into the test,” Schaffer said. “You don't want to go in blind having not seen the technology or the interface, or having had any practice taking an extended test in that form.
“So I think that's what's most important, helping them be prepared.”