October PSAT scores invalidated

Miscommunication by GBHS administration leads to students being given wrong version of exam


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Through random nation-wide selection, over fifty students from Granite Bay High were selected to take part in this assessment to provide data for academic achievement across the country.

  “I was absolutely shocked,” Granite Bay High school sophomore Ipsha Pandey said about her unusually low PSAT score after it was released in December of last year.

  “I didn’t know there was anything up when I first saw my score,” Pandey said. “I actually thought I was in the fifth percentile in the country.”

  Pandey was not alone. Of the 19 freshmen, 98 juniors and the entire sophomore class who took the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) on Oct. 25, all of their scores have been deemed invalid after an unfortunate set of circumstances resulting from miscommunication within the GBHS administration.

  Students were given the Oct. 11 version of the PSAT, meaning they took a test other students across the nation had already taken two weeks before.

  “Just prior to going on break for summertime, we ordered tests for the Oct. 11 test,” GBHS assistant principal Brian McNulty said. “That was the date that we were working under the assumption we were going to do.”

  However, the Roseville Joint Union High School District then planned its annual professional development day on Oct. 11, the same day GBHS was planning on taking the PSAT. The PSAT was subsequently rescheduled two weeks later to Oct. 25.

  The problem resulted when GBHS administration neglected to notify PSAT officials of the date change.

  “Not realizing that there were two other versions … and that we needed to call PSAT (to) let them know what we were doing,” McNulty said, “we unfortunately gave a test that had gone out two weeks prior to the 25th date, unbeknownst to us.”

  GBHS administration had overlooked an email from the district testing coordinator which instructed them to inform PSAT and the examination’s governing body, the College Board, of the rescheduled date.

  “It was just the perfect storm moving into it,” GBHS principal Jennifer Leighton said. “We had an administrator move to the district office, and we had a new career tech person. We had people shifting roles and (the email) got lost – some balls got dropped.”

  Administrators figured out their mistake when they received a call from a family wondering why their student’s scores weren’t showing up on the College Board website when they were supposed to be posted.

  After several phone calls to the standardized testing organization, it became apparent an error had occurred.

  “(PSAT) put a hold on the scores, and we had no idea that this had happened,” Leighton said. “We found out it was because we had given the wrong test on the wrong day.”

  Because other schools in the nation had already taken the same test version, there was an issue of possible leaks. Therefore, when the scores were eventually released, they could not be validated by the testing agency.

  “The problem with that is test integrity,” Leighton said. “They were concerned about kids who took it on Oct. 11 releasing something. So (the released scores) were ‘for guidance purposes only,’ meaning … it’s not an official score.”

  There was also a dilemma around the mixed results with the scoring of the test.

  “We had some students who scored exceptionally well,” McNulty said. “And we had some exceptional students, according to their teachers and their parents, that scored exceptionally bad – like one to five percentile.”

  It was then determined that the incorrect Oct. 25 answer key had likely been used to score the GBHS tests. GBHS administration requested that PSAT simply rescore them using the correct answer key, but this was not a viable option for the testing agency.

  Immediately, administrators sought to mitigate the possible repercussions of the invalid scores, and they began to collaborate on options and alternatives.

  “At that point, we felt horrible, sat down and brainstormed, ‘OK how can we somewhat fix this,’”  Leighton said.

  After intensive thought and consideration, the administration decided upon a plan.

  “So we tried to admit our mistake, look at the best possible scenarios … and we came up with the answer of let’s do a redo,” McNulty said.

  For freshmen and sophomores who took the test last October, GBHS will offer the spring PSAT as a “redo” on April 19, free of charge for those who would like to retake it.

  For juniors who took the October PSAT in hopes of qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship, school administration will offer the SAT without essay (an accepted NMS alternative) on March 21, also voluntary and free of charge.

  The PSAT is an important test for students because it is practice for the SAT and is used mainly for academic guidance purposes. For freshmen and sophomores, some college athletic coaches also ask recruits for PSAT scores.

   For juniors, the stakes are a bit higher.

  Most, if not all, juniors took the PSAT with the National Merit Scholarship as their goal. Juniors cannot currently qualify with these invalid October PSAT scores, but they do have another chance if they undergo an alternate application process and take the offered SAT.

  “(Juniors can) now take this SAT that’s coming up, the one that we’re offering, and apply to the National Merit Scholarship committee saying, ‘I missed the PSAT opportunity, but I want to have this (SAT score) be considered for the National Merit Scholarship,’” McNulty said.

  This ‘re-do’ option gives the juniors an equal chance with the rest of the nation in qualifying for the scholarship, while also providing underclassmen with another round of practice.

  Junior Andrew Yung took the PSAT last fall and welcomes the opportunity to do a retake.

  “I think I’ll take it again because I did originally come in wanting to qualify for National Merit, so if I can’t qualify with my invalidated scores, then I’ll just redo it,” Yung said.

  Though not erroneously low like many other students’, Yung’s said his score “was below my expectations.”

  He sees the spring SAT makeup as an opportunity instead of a burden.

  “I like taking standardized tests,” Yund said. “Plus the fact that I didn’t get the score I wanted (and) getting a second chance really is only positive for me – I don’t really see (the retake) as a morning wasted.”

  Like Yung, sophomore Pandey, whose invalid score was in the 700s, didn’t receive the score she anticipated, which initially caused her some anxiety.

  “At first I looked at the score, I looked at my grades, and I was wondering where I went wrong, like how could I miss so many questions on the math section,” Pandey said. “I was obviously really tense and didn’t tell my parents for a few days.”

  After hearing the news of the scoring errors, Pandey was relieved, but she also hopes history doesn’t repeat itself.

  “I just don’t want (the PSAT mix up) to happen to anybody else because it is kind of stressful when you see yourself get a score that low,” Pandey said.

  Pandey isn’t the only one who hopes this doesn’t reoccur. McNulty, Leighton and the GBHS administration have learned a valuable lesson.

  “We’re going to go through the same set up as what we’ve done for all the SAT/AP/PSAT tests in the past,” McNulty said. “Only we’re going to make sure we read the fine print really, really well.”

  GBHS promotes a continued, honest and committed relationship between administration and the community, which has been re-confirmed by working through this PSAT problem.

  “We’re entrusted to make sure we do everything right, and we try to do that to the best of our ability,” McNulty said. “This is one of those unfortunate times where we made a mistake – we took the responsibility that we own the issue of the mistake, nobody else.”

  GBHS administration has been transparent and honest about this unfortunate incident and is committed to making it right for those involved.

  “We’ve learned from it,” Leighton said. “I’m really sad and sorry that it happened, and it won’t happen again.”