How The SAT Failed America | Forbes

Published 2 years ago

Chaos. That’s the effect Covid-19 has had on America’s system of higher education, which was already struggling before the pandemic. One need look no further than the current state of affairs at the College Board, long regarded as an impenetrable fortress among the ivory towers. Its core product, the SAT, has set the standard for college admissions for more than five decades. Few realize it, but the New York City-based organization that offers the SAT and Advanced Placement tests is a nonprofit that operates as a near monopoly. Its tests, which have a stranglehold on their student-customers, fuel more than $1 billion in annual revenue and $100 million in untaxed surplus. It has $400 million invested with hedge funds and private equity, and its chief executive, McKinsey-trained David Coleman, 50, pulls down compensation of almost $2 million a year.

Interviews with more than 75 people expose the deep problems threatening the College Board’s billion-dollar testing monopoly. The great-granddaddy of standardized tests may not survive.

Frustrated students and apoplectic helicopter parents aren’t the College Board’s only problems. The nonprofit and its SAT have long been criticized as perpetuating a lopsided system that favors the affluent. The College Board proclaims that its mission is “to connect students to college success and opportunity.” Yet its own data show that Black and brown students score lower on both the SAT and AP exams than do whites.

But it’s the Board’s inability to safely adapt its operations to the pandemic that has prompted customers to opt out in droves. Since March, more than 500 colleges, including every school in the Ivy League, have joined the growing “test optional” movement. All told, more than 1,600 four-year schools will not require scores for admission in 2021, and a growing number are becoming “test blind,” meaning they won’t consider scores at all.

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