The Redesigned PSAT/NMSQT and the Redesigned Schedule for Test Administration
At the SAANYS statewide conference held at the Sagamore Hotel on October 26 and 27, 2014, information was presented in regard to the redesigned SAT and PSAT/NMSQT tests. The redesigned assessments will ask students to apply a deep understanding of the skills and knowledge that research shows are essential for college readiness and success. The College Board followed-up with information on the schedule for test administration. On February 9, 2015, SAANYS was informed of the revised schedule for the administration of the redesigned Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The announcement from the College Board said, in part:
We are excited to introduce the redesigned Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT(r)), debuting in October 2015, and are writing to let you know about an important scheduling change: During the first year of the redesigned PSAT/NMSQT, there will only be two administrations of the test – Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015 (recommended test date), and Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 (alternate test date). This means that no Saturday administration will be available in the first year of the redesigned PSAT/NMSQT.
Upon the release of the revised schedule, SAANYS began receiving inquiries from members. Paul Gasparini, Principal of the Jamesville-Dewitt High School was to first to contact SAANYS and presented the dilemma faced by his school district and others.
“In the past there was a Wednesday administration and a Saturday administration. We chose the Saturday administration because it would not be possible for us to administer the exam during the week. All our classrooms are used and we do not have the flexibility to take 8 – 10 classrooms out of rotation to administer the exam. If we are forced to administer the exam, we would not be able to have classes for at least 75 percent of our students. I know that we are not alone in this predicament.”
SAANYS took action in the following ways:
- A letter of inquiry was sent to The College Board requesting the rationale for the revised test administration schedule and asking whether the prior schedule can be reestablished.
- The State Education Department was contacted. Assistant Commissioner Candice Shyer said the department received no prior notice of the schedule change, and Senior Deputy Commissioner Ken Wagner indicated that, although the department has no role in scheduling these tests, that he would pass this concern on to SED’s contact at College Board.
- An electronic survey was sent to all SAANYS high school principals asking for information related to the new schedule’s impacts upon students and upon school programs and operations.
- SAANYS also reached out to the NYS Council of School Superintendents and found that they too were concerned about the revised test schedule and signaled their intention to also contact the College Board.
On February 19, College Board representative Matthew Zarro, Director K-12, met at the SAANYS office building with James Viola from SAANYS and with Robert Lowery from the NYS Council of School Superintendents, who accepted SAANYS’s invitation to attend the meeting.
Since the College Board announcement SAANYS has been contacted by over 50 schools and districts. Concerns were raised by a spectrum of Big Five, suburban and small school districts across the state. Some school administrators said that they administered the tests on Wednesdays in the past, and planned to do so next year. However, the majority indicated that for programmatic and/or logistical reasons, their districts administered the tests on Saturdays in the past, and that they find the revised schedule difficult – or impossible – to accommodate. A sample of comments received from administrators follows:
- Many districts, on the behalf of their school communities, expressed upset with their perceived unnecessary loss of an instructional day. Some districts feel they cannot (and some said that they will not) administer the test during the school day.
- Some schools expressed that testing during the school day impacts all students. “The result is a poor test environment and a poor educational environment.”
- Great concern about lost instructional time, for part or all of a school day. Some schools feel they would have to close school for the day.
- A Big Five school district indicated that the tests are not administered in every school. The revised schedule necessitates identifying students who plan to take the test and arranging for bussing.
- Some schools maintain that the test is “optional” and should be reserved for non-instructional time.
- Some schools feel that some students will not sit for the test if it means missing class.
- In some schools, student attendance is expected to decrease for students not taking the PSAT test.
- Some schools object to having to bear additional costs (substitutes, rental of space, transportation) for the administration of an optional test, by a private entity.
- Staff will need to be pulled from other classes to proctor and implement accommodations; students from those classes will be adversely impacted. Special education teachers will have to leave their normal assignments to assist with the test.
- There may not be sufficient substitutes to work in all high schools within a region, since all the high schools will be drawing from the same pool of available substitutes.
- Logistically, some schools do not have sufficient facilities to test during the day.
- One school said, “The test is wagging the dog.”
- One school district said, “They should have postponed the new PSAT if they could not do it right.”
Mr. Zarro clarified the following points:
Why was a new schedule established for PSAT administration? The new schedule for PSAT administration is in place for 2015-2016 only. Based on feedback the College Board received from educators, it was decided that the re-designed PSAT should be administered in October 2015, in advance of the re-designed SAT that will be administered in March 2016. According to the College Board, “Operational constraints prevented the College Board from holding the previous administration schedule.” With the intent to ensure that all students have the opportunity to participate, the College Board chose to hold both administrations on Wednesdays in 2015. Meeting this schedule, however, means that the College Board is able to support only two PSAT/NMSQT test dates in 2015. The College Board said that it is committed to offering a Saturday administration again in 2016-2017. Additional information can be found at: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat-suite-assessments/psat-nmsqt/about/2015-Wednesday-testing.
With short time between the meeting with Mr. Zarro and the deadline for this article, SAANYS reached out to six high schools out of the more than 400 colleges, public schools and private schools listed in the membership of the New York State College Board Advisory Group. Four of the schools responded saying that they were unaware of their inclusion in the membership of the College Board Advisory Group, that they provided no information/recommendation to the College Board in this regard, and that they would have recommended against a schedule change that does not include the option for Saturday administration. Upon bringing this to the attention of the College Board, SAANYS was informed that the College Board made its decision regarding PSAT administration based on feedback from “educators,” not from the College Board Advisory Group.
What is the over-all PSAT administration schedule for 2015 and 2016? For 2015-16, there will be two administrations of the re-designed PSAT.
1. In the fall of 2015, on October 14 (recommended test date) and October 28 (alternate test date). These administrations are open to sophomore and junior high school students.
2. In the spring of 2016, during a two-week window (expected to be scheduled in March and expected to include Saturdays), an administration will be scheduled for students in grades 8, 9 and 10 only.
For the 2016-2017 school year, the College Board will offer a Saturday PSAT administration.
What happens next? Upon being informed that scheduling a third administration of the PSAT in October 2015 is impossible, SAANYS asked whether any other modification of the schedule is possible. Mr. Zarro indicated that he was not sure whether a schedule modification for October 2015 is possible or not. Therefore, SAANYS made a strong recommendation that the October 2015 schedule be revised to delete the second Wednesday administration and to insert a Saturday date for administration. Mr. Zarro noted the recommendation and pledged that he would “bring it back for consideration.” He provided no assurances as to the likely action to be taken by the College Board in connection with this recommendation.
In the last correspondence written to College Board representatives in support of a revised PSAT schedule that includes one Wednesday and one Saturday option, SAANYS wrote: “We at SAANYS, on the behalf of more than 7,000 “educators” strongly recommend such a revision.”
We will continue to keep you updated in this regard, both through e-blasts and through upcoming issues of News and Notes. For more information regarding SAANYS’ actions in regard to the PSAT schedule, please contact James Viola, director of government relations at JViola@saanys.org. Readers may also contact the College Board by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by writing Governance, The College Board, 45 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10023.