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SAT's New Digital Format Prompts Worries from Parents

Schools will administer the new digital version of the SAT exam in March, and parents are already concerned about the change, in some cases recommending that their kids take the test this fall or skip it altogether.

digital SAT test
(TNS) — In the springtime, high school students across the country will be taking a new SAT exam — one that is online and shorter — but there has been "parent hysteria" over the change, which prompted discussion at the recent Greenwich Board of Education members retreat.

"Parents are freaking out," said BOE Member Laura Kostin.

United States high schools will start offering the new SAT on March 9. The new two-hour test will be conducted completely digitally and is adaptive: The SAT will generate an individualized exam — meaning a student's results on the first module of the exam will dictate what questions the exam will ask them in the second module. Right now, students take the same SAT test using pencil and paper and it lasts about three hours.

"The format closely mirrors what students have experienced with other types of adaptive and electronic assessments, such as the (Smarter Balanced Assessment) which begins in third grade," said Superintendent Toni Jones. "GHS was also a pilot site for the digital format the past two years for the Connecticut-required SAT School Day. While the test will be somewhat different, GHS has experienced a digital format for the SAT."

Brigid Barry, GHS English program administrator, said this test will be "very different from the SAT we took" since students have to complete the first section of the test before moving on to the second. The old SAT allowed for students to go back and forth between the modules during the exam.

"Now College Board reps will tell you it's not a redesign, it's reformatting," Barry said. "But it certainly does not seem to be (that)."

Many board members told district officials that parents have been talking about the exam and that some parents are giving advice to one another to have their child take it before March or skip the SAT entirely.

"Just so you know, the parents are sort of saying if you are a junior, just sign up now and take it in the fall," said BOE Member Kathleen Stowe. "Don't take the risk of taking it in the spring."

Added Kostin, "The other advice we're hearing is don't do it, just take the ACT," she said. "Forget the SAT altogether now that it's test optional at so many schools. They're just saying don't even go there and I don't know if that's sound advice or if you think they should be less petrified."

Barry reminded the BOE members that all juniors will have to take the SAT on the state's SAT School Day, which will be in the spring, so these students will experience the new SAT.

"In terms of attention, the new one may be easier," Barry said. "It's shorter ... The other one was an endurance test."

Since GHS has been piloting the new exam for two years, current seniors have experience with the digital version. Karen Kowalski, BOE member, has a senior and said her daughter hated the fact that it was digital.

"It was really hard to do, your eyes get tired looking at the screen, you get lost and it's more of an endurance challenge than when you have the physical paper in front of you," Kowalski said.

During the high school's advisory block, Jones said that staff members will go over with the students what to expect when they take the SAT.

"GHS makes sure that students understand how to utilize the online tools available as well as what is allowable to have during the test like their physical calculator," Jones said. "This year, GHS is also very focused on the SAT School Day from the perspective of the District Strategic Plan. There will be more exposure to the intricacies of the assessment throughout their core classes as well."

Jones told Greenwich Time that the district will be sending out more information regarding the new SAT format once it gets closer.

"Until the middle of this year, students may sign up and take the SAT on the paper version, and we are letting our students and families know that if the digital version makes them a little nervous, they can still take the paper version this fall," Jones said.

©2023 the Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Conn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.