Lack of answers on SAT snarl angers families

Frustration over problems with an SAT exam given at Providence High built Monday, as families remained unable to get answers about what happened and how it will affect their kids.

They contacted Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leaders, state officials and even their congressman in hopes of getting a quick resolution from The College Board and ETS, the national nonprofit testing companies that administer the college-readiness test. All they could get, they said, was incomplete and contradictory messages from the SAT website. Students trying to check their scores online got “not yet available” or “makeup” messages, sometimes changing back and forth.

“Their customer service is the pits,” said Dee Ann Guthrie, mother of a Providence High junior who has been told he can retake the exam June 21, when he’ll be overseas with a school exchange program.

Guthrie and other parents say if errors in test administration invalidate students’ scores, they should be allowed to retake the SAT on Saturday, the last regular testing session of this school year, rather than having to attend a special makeup session during summer vacation.

Julie Lukitsch Cincera, one of the parents sharing information on a Facebook page set up to deal with the SAT problems, said she got an email Monday afternoon saying, “your May 2014 scores are currently under administrative review. Please be advised the make-up exam has not yet been determined, you will be contacted once it is confirmed. Please allow more time for investigation. We apologize for the inconvenience and also appreciate your patience.”

Students pay $51 to take the test, which is required for many college admissions. Guthrie said her son is counting on his scores for an application to the U.S. Naval Academy.

ETS and College Board spokesman Tom Ewing sent the Observer an email Friday night acknowledging that some test-takers at the May 3 session “may not have been seated appropriately.” He said Monday there is no new information. He declined to speak to a reporter in person or estimate when the issue would be resolved.

Ewing has not answered questions about how many students took the exam at Providence and how many are at risk of having their scores invalidated.

“We don’t have any additional information at this time but we will let you know immediately when we do,” Ewing emailed.

While the test was given at Providence High in southeast Charlotte, it was not a CMS exam. Students from private schools, other districts and other CMS schools could sign up to take the test there. Most are juniors preparing to apply for college.

Parents say the statement sent to the Observer about seating, while more than they have gotten, contradicts what they’ve heard from Providence faculty indicating that school personnel overseeing the exams may have been part of the problem.

CMS spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte said the district has also been trying to get answers. “It impacts our students and other students,” she said.

While CMS employees often contract with the College Board and ETS to administer the tests, she said, no personnel action is being taken in connection with the outside work.

John Tate, a state Board of Education member from Charlotte, also got pleas from parents and asked the state to look into the situation. But Vanessa Jeter of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction said the privately administered exams aren’t a state issue.