SAT in the throes of inaccessibility – Berkeley High Jacket
Last Saturday, the SAT was offered at Berkeley High School (BHS). However, only six percent of the students who took the exam were actually from BHS. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a shortage of places for SAT exams at bay area testing sites, leading many students to register months in advance to secure a place.
As a result, BHS students have been forced to compete for these scarce places with students from other schools, who are often more advantaged in terms of accessing resources on the college.
Some schools are coping with the shortage by offering an SAT exam during the school day, which saves students the trouble of finding places. However, BHS has chosen not to offer this option to its students.
Over the past few years, BHS has offered 350-400 SAT test spots. This year, they have reduced the number to 200 places, according to Benette Williams, SAT coordinator at BHS.
Williams attributed the shortage of SATs primarily to physical distancing requirements and the loss of supervisors, many of whom fear contracting COVID-19 from large groups. She also said the College Board has eliminated waiting lists this year, so students cannot fill empty seats.
As a result, BHS students who wanted to take the SAT were forced to travel great distances, according to Williams. Among those students were Chaya Haugland and Maclain Pagenhart, both seniors at Academic Choice (AC).
Haugland said even months in advance, the closest test site she could find was in Klamath Falls, Oregon. She drove there with her friend and her friend’s mother and stayed at the hotel the day before the exam. She called her circumstances a stressful test and said she was forced to find information about the SAT on her own.
“I could have done it with a little more support from [BHS]”Haugland said.” If you actively search for it, you can find it, but it’s not offered or automatic. “
Jennifer Hammond, college advisor in AC and Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS), described the disproportionate impact of the SAT shortage. âTaking the time to drive or catch a plane somewhere far is not accessible to many students, especially students from low-income households,â she said. “These are the students who were already disadvantaged by standardized tests in general … and the shortage only perpetuates the inequalities.”
âFrankly, most of the people we’ve served have come from very elite Bay Area schools, whose college advisers tell them ‘as soon as this window opens you’re going to sign up,’ Williams said.
Jed Fogelson is a student at Bentley Upper School, a private school in Lafayette, who was able to secure one of the coveted SAT places at BHS in December. He registered for the exam on July 1 because he was encouraged by instructors during a SAT webinar given by his school.
âWe were like, ‘You think about the preparation first, then the test,'” said Jodi Short, Fogelson’s mother. âThey were like, ‘No you get your test date first and then you work back because you don’t even know what test date you’re going to be able to get. “”
Bentley places a strong emphasis on college counseling, and each December they pair juniors with college counselors for one-on-one advice on enrollment and testing.
In the spring, Bentley offers the SAT on campus to its own students. BHS also had the option of offering a SAT exam on school day, which would have allowed all seniors to take the SAT during a school day in October. According to Harrison Blatt, deputy principal of Berkeley International High School (BIHS), the school ultimately decided not to do so due to “logistical challenges and security concerns.”
This decision can be part of a movement for fairness. Although Hammond acknowledged that the shortage of SAT exacerbates inequalities, she added that âthe whole process of admission to college is inequitable. If the test was gone, that’s just another way to make it a bit fairer. “
Hammond also explained that many universities have taken the blind test or the elective test. She
listed the benefits of reducing dependence on the SAT.
“Instead of studying for the test and taking and re-taking the test, students invest more time in finding the best colleges for them, and it pays off because they then have much better nuanced essays to write,” Hammond said. “The SAT takes so long in this college application process, so it’s actually quite beneficial not to make it accessible.”
Dwayne Clay, director of the Academy of Arts and Humanities (AHA), agreed, describing how his decision not to take the SAT allowed him to work on college applications and keep up with his studies. He added that no one in his family had a college degree and his experience with PSAT was very negative.
âWe just got thrown in a bubble to take the test,â Clay said. âI had no idea what we were supposed to do. If I don’t have to use time that I don’t really have [on the SAT], so I choose not to.