Hartford School Board Plans Special Meeting On SAT Testing Contract
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
September 24, 2012
HARTFORD —— Following concerns about students left scrambling last week to register for the SAT, the school board has called a special meeting Tuesday to take another vote on a $100,000 contract with the College Board to provide free, in-class SAT testing to juniors and seniors.
The board voted against renewing the yearlong contract last week after several members said they needed more information from Superintendent Christina Kishimoto on how she planned to improve last school year's dismal SAT scores and how the testing relates to her overall strategy to prepare students for colleges and careers
The board's relationship with Kishimoto has been tense in recent weeks and months over the issue of communication.
An unintended consequence of the board's rejection became apparent last Thursday and Friday, when many Hartford seniors who planned to take the SAT during class on Oct. 17 — and improve their junior-year scores in time to mail college applications this fall — were forced to make alternate arrangements and find money to pay to take the exam next month.
"Ultimately, we have to do the right thing for our students," board Chairman Matthew Poland said Monday.
The school board scheduled the new vote after Kishimoto provided more details on the contract and her college and career readiness plan, "which we did not have last week," Poland said. Board members also were not told of the Monday deadline facing students if they voted down the contract.
Monday was the final day for late registration for the Oct. 6 national SAT testing date. The cost is $50 and the late fee is an extra $27.
Low-income students are eligible for fee waivers from the College Board, but getting enough waivers usually requires more than several days' notice, said Charlene Senteio, a school counselor at Hartford Public High School's Law and Government Academy.
The College Board asks schools to request fee waivers at least three weeks before a testing date's regular registration deadline.
Leslie Sepuka, a spokeswoman for the College Board, said that the $27 late fee would be waived for Hartford students, but they still needed to sign up by Monday if they want to take the SAT on Oct. 6. The remaining 2012 testing dates are Nov. 3 and Dec. 1, the first Saturdays of the month.
The board's special meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Hartford Public, where many Law and Government seniors walked out of class Friday morning to line up at Senteio's office for 45 available fee waivers. After 125 seniors showed up, Principal Adam Johnson said Monday that he decided to give the waivers to top students based on cumulative grade-point average.
"There were girls going into the bathrooms and crying.... There was a lot of tension and sadness," said Johnson, who anticipated that many students will attend Tuesday's meeting. Students also held a quiet protest in the school courtyard around lunchtime Friday and skipped one class.
Johnson said he believes the board has good intentions and "there is nothing wrong about wanting more information."
But, Johnson added, "the kids are counting on this."
In the 2011-12 year, for the first time, city juniors and seniors took the SAT during the school day through Hartford's $100,000 partnership with the College Board that included PSAT testing and individual student reports.
The average score for 868 students who took the exam in April was 367 in critical reading, 369 in math and 384 in writing. The range of possible SAT scores is 200 to 800 per section.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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