A Testy Situation


Canceled testing puts damper on collegiate futures

  • The SAT and ACT have been postponed because of COVID-19.
    The SAT and ACT have been postponed because of COVID-19.

With standardized testing being continuously canceled due to COVID-19, many local students aren’t able to achieve the scores they need for college admissions and scholarships.

The SAT has been canceled for May and June. Similarly, the ACT was canceled for April.

Both tests are administered at high school and college campuses, which are currently closed in Florida due to the coronavirus pandemic. Neither test has ever been offered online and no plans to provide virtual exams have been announced.

“Without those test scores, these high school juniors and seniors won’t be able to be accepted to schools that rely on those test scores for admission, and most colleges do,” said Karen Franse, a parent in Pomona Park.

Due to the lack of testing options, numerous institutions have adjusted their applications. St. Thomas University, a private Catholic college in Miami Gardens, has made providing exam results optional this year.

However, some schools in Florida still want prospective students to provide test scores.

“At this time, the requirements for admission remain the same,” Sandy Alfaro, admissions officer for the University of Central Florida, said last month in an email. “We are still requiring the SAT (or) ACT results for freshmen admission.”

Some people have suggested the lack of testing opportunities will prompt more students to enroll in community colleges. St. Johns River State College doesn’t require SAT or ACT scores for admission.

According to Melanie Brown, the school’s vice president of academic affairs, those tests are only used to place people in the appropriate classes.

“If students don’t have one of those scores, we have a test we can give them called the (Postsecondary Education Readiness Test),” Brown said.

Brown said SJR State isn’t able to administer the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test in person this year due to coronavirus concerns. As a result, she said, the exam will take place online and be monitored by Honorlock, an on-demand proctoring service that ensures test integrity.

SJR State’s summer term will begin May 13. Brown said the original deadline to apply for the summer term was May 1, but the deadline was extended to Wednesday so more people can take the placement test.

Susan Kessler, SJR State’s director of public relations and publications, said the college is prepared should there be an influx of students this year.

“We would certainly welcome more applicants,” Kessler said.

Unlike SJR State, some agencies were not ready for the cancelation of SAT and ACT testing.

The Florida Office of Student Financial Assistance, a sector of the Florida Department of Education, provides monetary to aid to students across the state. Some of the office’s most prestigious scholarship programs, including Bright Futures, are dependent on standardized test scores.

“We’re working through this and we’re trying to find the most compassionate solution possible,” said Cheryl Etters, deputy director of communications for Florida Department of Education.

Franse expressed disappointment in the department’s lack of a plan, stating scholarships are more important than ever.

“Keep in mind that there are many families whose income has been partially or even completely lost as a result of COVID-19 business closures,” Franse said. “When one or both parents who are saving for college suddenly find themselves unemployed with a family to care for, they are going to rely on whatever savings they have – even if that means depleting their children’s college funds.”

According to its website, the next ACT is tentatively scheduled for June 13. College Board officials said the next SAT is set to take place Aug. 24.

However, College Board officials said they are prepared to make adjustments if school campuses are still closed at that time.

“We know students and educators are worried about how the coronavirus may disrupt the college admissions process, and we want to do all we can to help alleviate that anxiety during this very demanding time,” David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, said during a conference call in April. 

“Our first principle with the SAT and all our work must be to keep families and students safe. The second principle is to make the SAT as widely available as possible for students who wish to test, regardless of the economic or public health circumstances.”

Coleman said the SAT could possibly be administered online. No plans to do so have been announced.

“If it were up to me, and of course it isn’t, I would encourage all colleges and universities to adopt test-optional policies for both the 2020 and 2021 school years,” Franse said. 

“I would encourage them to also create new ways to examine students for scholarship eligibility that are based on the years of hard work they have put in rather than a single test that they may not have done well enough on because their opportunity to take and re-take it was stolen from them by COVID-19.”