McLean, VA (written by Mary Beth Marklein/USA Today) -- The College Board, which offers its SAT college entrance exam seven times during the school year, is under pressure to cancel a plan that allows a group of gifted students to take the test later this summer.
The problem? The Aug. 3 test date will be available only to students whose families can afford a three-week college-prep program, which is being advertised as costing as much as $4,495. And the summer prep program includes several days of coaching by a for-profit test-prep company, a practice that the College Board discourages.
"Granting the opportunity to take the exam outside the regular academic year and after intense SAT coaching only to an economically elite segment of the college-going population is blatantly unfair," says a letter, delivered Monday to the College Board. It was signed by the non-profit National Center for Fair & Open Testing, or FairTest, a longstanding critic of standardized tests, and by Elizabeth Stone, an educational consultant in San Mateo, Calif., who raised questions with the College Board in a letter last month.
The August test date was announced in April as part of a collaboration between the College Board and the National Society for the Gifted and Talented, an organization based in Stamford, Conn. According to the society's website, the summer program includes coaching by the Princeton Review.
On its website, the College Board says it does "not endorse the use of expensive test-prep courses." It also cites a 2009 study by the non-profit National Association for College Admission Counseling showing that test-prep courses have "minimal impact" on scores.
College Board spokeswoman Kathleen Steinberg said on Monday that officials have "reached out to (the gifted and talented society) to discuss this matter, but have no further comment at this time."
Earlier, College Board Vice President Kathryn Juric said in an e-mail to Stone that about 30 students are expected to sit for the August test, which is intended to be a pilot study so officials can work through logistical challenges as it considers whether to offer the test nationwide during the summers. She also said students in the summer gifted program "would not have any unfair advantage."
Stone says the timing of the test date is unfair to other students, including her clients, who take test-prep courses in the summer.
"My students won't be able to take the August SAT," Stone wrote in her complaint to the College Board. "They will have to wait until October," when they also will be juggling regular coursework and college application deadlines.