SAT scores dumped, Packer lawyers up

May 17, 2012 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Brooklyn Heights academy rails at ‘monolithic bureaucracy’

The head of Packer Collegiate Institute said Thursday that his school had contacted legal counsel to “protect the rights” of nearly 200 students whose SAT scores were invalidated — apparently because some of them were seated by the school’s proctors too close to other test-takers. Students are infuriated at the snafu.

An auditor from the College Board was aware of the seating problem on test day but said nothing to the school, according to Dr. Bruce L. Dennis, Packer’s Head of School.

The board requires that students sit at least four feet apart. Students receiving testing accommodations for reasons of health or disability were seated much further apart than four feet, but their scores were also invalidated.

The test will be given again at an alternate location this Saturday, but many students are in the midst of Advanced Placement and other exams and worry they won’t be able to perform at the top of their game.

Juniors from dozens of area high schools took the test at Packer — a popular and usually dependable SAT testing location — on May 5. 

The College Board website says that testing conditions require: “Seating with a minimum of four feet between test-takers side to side and front to back, facing in the same direction.”

“That’s ridiculous,” was the reaction of a Brooklyn high school junior who took the test earlier this year. “I don’t think I’ve ever taken any test under those conditions — not four feet, I can tell you that.”

Dr. Dennis said in a statement late Wednesday that Packer received an unannounced inspection from the College Board’s Office of Testing Integrity on the day of the test. During that visit the test site was found to be out of compliance with several requirements “including one that requires students to be seated at least four feet from one another.”

The following Monday a College Board representative phoned Packer’s site administrator “to advise her that these irregularities needed to be corrected before our June 2nd test date.

“Absolutely no mention was made of any score cancellations,” Dr. Dennis said.

Testing services have been on “increased alert” since a large cheating ring was uncovered on Long Island last year, the New York Times reported in its story Wednesday.

Dr. Dennis said that the College Board never notified Packer that they had cancelled students’ test scores. Individual families heard from the College Board that students were being given “the opportunity” to re-take the test on May 19 at a different test site.

“I have been on the phone all day reaching out to officials at the College Board in their Test Administration Services Unit and their Office of Testing Integrity, with each office placing responsibility for the decision on the other,” Dr. Dennis said.

“Packer has contacted legal counsel to ensure that our students’ rights are protected,” Dennis said. “While we accept responsibility for not strictly adhering to all guidelines, the College Board’s decision to invalidate almost two hundred student scores without any evidence of individual wrongdoing or cheating strikes us as exceedingly unfair.”

Dr. Dennis said that invalidating the scores of students receiving special testing accommodations, “who had considerably more than four feet separating them,” was “a reflection of what occurs when a monolithic bureaucracy imposes broad-reaching decisions without adequately considering the extent of the consequences.”

Dr. Dennis apologized to the students and said the school is taking measures to make sure the seating changes are made before the next test date.

“But we are enormously frustrated that the College Board has still failed to communicate with us directly,” he added.

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