The College Board caught a blistering barrage of flak from across the education industry when it announced back in late May that it would offer the SAT in summer for the first time this August… to a group of wealthy, high-achieving students enrolled in a pricey summer program run by The Princeton Review test prep company.

While the College Board stated that this was simply a pilot program to gauge the feasibility of offering summer testing on a regular basis in the future, critics charged that the move was blatantly elitist and discriminatory. The expressed goal of the SAT since its inception has been to “democratize” the college application process – but many argue that high-priced test prep courses do just the opposite.

As was widely reported, the College Board quickly decided to cancel the test. But why don’t they just find a better way to create a test date for the SAT in summer? Likewise, why isn’t it possible to take the ACT in summer?

High school students would benefit greatly from the option to take the SAT or ACT in the summer, versus during the higher-stress school year. Kids could finish their academic year, focus on test prep for part of the summer, and take the high-stakes exam in August. Why isn’t this an option?

Both exams are offered seven times during the school year. (Here are upcoming SAT and ACT test dates – no test dates are available between early June and early October.) With the current test calendar, many students take a high-stakes college admissions test in the spring of their junior year, and perhaps again in October of their senior year.

As Time Ideas points out, summer test dates would benefit students who can’t afford prep courses and need to prepare on their own, since they’d have more time in the summer to take practice tests and make use of free and low-cost practice resources available online. (Low-cost tools like the Socrato learning analytics service help level the playing field by enabling students in all income brackets to prepare effectively for college admissions tests.)

A further advantage of a summer test date for seniors is that they’d have their scores back in time to send out applications for Early Decision or Early Action schools – enabling them to make better decisions about what schools to apply to.

According to the College Board, reports Club Z’s Educational Blog, the current testing calendar is largely designed to accommodate the needs of colleges that rely on high-stakes test results in their admissions process. Further, since many SAT and ACT test centers are located in high schools, the majority of test center staff end up being teachers, counselors and other school staff. Conducting tests during the school year simply ensures that testing facilities and staff will be available. Many such buildings are closed in the summer, and educators are busy elsewhere.

A further concern of the testing organizations is whether there would be adequate student interest in summer test dates? Would the availability of testing centers and staff be adequate to meet the demand? Is the demand uniform across the country or would summertime SAT/ACT testing be more popular in some regions than others? Would it make more sense to add an eighth test date in the summer, or shift the seven current dates around?

While setting up a summer test date would take some effort on the part of the College Board and ACT, that expenditure could be outweighed by the benefit to students – perhaps especially lower-income students who are arguably disadvantaged versus wealthy peers whose families can pay for sophisticated test prep. If democratizing high-stakes testing really is the goal of these organizations, a summer test date merits not just consideration, but action.

Do you think the SAT and ACT should be offered in summer, and why?

Featured image courtesy of danisabella.

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