Letter | College Board owes families an explanation, and maybe a refund

March 16, 2014 

Recently, the College Board announced that changes will be coming to the Scholastic Aptitude Test in 2016. What our son, and many other students taking their SAT on Saturday at Coastal Carolina University, did not know was that one big change had already occurred.

You see, last October, he sat for his first exam. Never mind that it was two hours late while the proctor decided to “wait” for late students. He brought along his two No. 2 pencils, I.D., admission ticket, snack and calculator just as instructed.

The calculator had taken me to a couple of office supply stores in search of an admissible one as specified on the College Board website. I purchased it, and once at the test, his calculator was checked along with every other students, and they all passed muster.

Fast forward to now. The test begins an hour late as students are slowly processed by last name. Then the calculators are checked and half of them are confiscated. The students are in disbelief, shock and awe. Our son and the others know these to be the permitted models of calculators, based on what they had used successfully in the past.

Hardly any of them could concentrate on the exam, as the realization dawns that they will probably fail the math portion. (And yes, back in the day when I took the SAT we didn’t use calculators, but times have changed.)

At the end of the ordeal, many discouraged and upset students exited the building, again, two hours late in our son’s case as he waited to reclaim his calculator. When he met us in the parking lot, he shared the fiasco that had ensued. I called the College Board before we hit the main highway.

They did not know of any changes to the regulations regarding calculators. The lady looked up our make and number and said that it was not on her allowed list. So apparently something HAD changed since last fall, and all of the students who were retaking the SAT were unaware of it, since fully 50 percent would not arrive with the wrong calculator on purpose. There was no notice or note of any changes on the College Board website, nor on the entrance ticket that every student must print with their photo I.D.

At $51 a pop, I’d say the College Board owes parents across the country quite a sum. These families had their time, money and energies wasted due to the company’s extreme unprofessionalism. It’s time to make some changes, or toss out the SAT entirely as many colleges are now doing. If this exam is being used to judge a student’s college-readiness, we’re all in big trouble.

The writer lives in Myrtle Beach and is the pastor at Real Life Church.

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