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College Board Drops SAT’s Optional Essay and Subject Tests to Reduce Demands

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College Board will be permanently dropping the optional essay and subject tests after the summer. This is to reduce the demands of students affected by the crisis of the pandemic.

What We Know:

  • On Tuesday, the College Board announced that it is discontinuing the optional essay section and subject-area exams of the SAT for college-bound U.S. students after June 2021. SAT subject tests were optional, multiple-choice exams that students could take in order to demonstrate aptitude or standardized academic credentials on topics like Spanish language, biology, and physics.
  • It will be available only in certain states, including Delaware and Oklahoma, that use the SAT for school accountability measurement and offer the test during the school day. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated a process already underway to simplify our work and reduce demands on students, the standardized testing nonprofit said in a note to members.
  • According to NBC News, the optional SAT essay section, which was introduced in 2005, will be discontinued after June testing dates because “there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing,” the College Board said. The essay section had a 15-year heyday, which raised the maximum SAT score from 1600 to 2400, was a central part of many students’ college admissions applications for years. However, by last year, several major institutions had made the section optional.
  • Based in New York, the testing organization also revealed the launch of a process to revise the main SAT, aiming to make the admission test more flexible and streamlined and enable students to take the exam digitally instead of with pencil and paper. There were few details available on how the main SAT might be changed. David Coleman, chief executive of the College Board, said the organization is not pursuing an at-home version of the exam. He said more information would be coming in April.
  • Even before the pandemic, the subject tests and the optional essay were losing influence. Fewer schools were requiring applicants to take them, and many experts questioned their value. These tests long served a niche role in admissions as a way for students to amass extra credentials showing their prowess for ultra-competitive schools. For many years, Ivy League schools and others, including Georgetown University, recommended, encouraged, or accepted subject test scores in addition to the scores they required from the main SAT or ACT.

U.S. students registered for subject tests will be refunded, while the College Board will provide two final SAT subject test administrations in May and June 2021 for international locations because they are used internationally for a wider variety of purposes. College Board plans to phase out international students by next Summer.

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black Alerts and the host of Boss Mornings and Unmuted Nation. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

Crime

Classes canceled at Howard University as US Government investigates ransomware cyberattack

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Howard University officials along with leading cyber experts are trying to assess what has been compromised in an active ransomware, cyberattack on the HBCU campus. Officials have deemed the attack criminal.

What We Know:

  • Monday, the university issued a statement to faculty and students that “the service disruption was caused by a ransomware cyberattack against the university.”
  • Classes have been canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Students have been notified that online and hybrid classes will remain canceled and only essential staff will be allowed on campus. All in-person undergraduate, graduate, professional, and clinical experiential courses will resume as scheduled on Wednesday.
  • A ransomware attack can be triggered by simple, everyday activity. Opening a unintended link inside of can lead to a cyberattack.  Computer, tablet and phone users are encouraged to change their passwords and security questions regularly.

Howard University is home to several notable high profile Black alumni such as Chadwick Boseman and Phylicia Rashad.

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Education

Howard University installs Chadwick Boseman’s name on College of Fine Arts building

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The “Black Panther” star is seen as an “icon in his own right who has left an immeasurable legacy for the next generation,” the university said.

What We Know:

“Yesterday, the letters were installed over the now official Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts,” the school said in a tweet Friday. “An icon in his own right who has left an immeasurable legacy for the next generation. Thank you Mr. Boseman.”

  • Howard University first announced in May that it would rename its performing and visual arts school after the ‘Black Panther’ star who also happens to be an alumnus of the school.
  • Boseman graduated from Howard in 2000 with a bachelor of arts degree in directing. During his time at the school, Boseman led a student protest against the absorption of the College of Fine Arts into the larger College of Arts & Sciences, according to the university.

In 2018, the year Boseman rocketed to international fame as King T’Challa in the Marvel cinematic universe, the university announced that its performing and visual arts school would return to its independent status.

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Education

Education Department Will Erase $5.8 Billion in Loans For Borrowers With Disabilities

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The Department of Education (DOE) announced it would eliminate the outstanding loans of over 32,000 borrowers with significant, permanent disabilities. It will also remove barriers that block future students from qualifying for this relief.

What We Know:

  • The DOE’s declaration erases approximately $5.8 million in debt. In addition, NPR writes that it symbolizes a “significant step” toward improving a “troubled debt relief program meant to help borrowers with disabilities.” U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona confirmed this statement when the Education Department revealed its decision, stating it would remove a major barrier for disabled students.

“Today’s action removes a major barrier that prevented far too many borrowers with disabilities from receiving the total and permanent disability discharges they are entitled to under the law,” Cardona said.

  • Despite the program’s intention to wipe student loans of those who cannot work due to disabilities, those who qualified for the program needed to apply for relief. Under the new plan, students will obtain automatic relief when identified through a data match with the Social Security Administration. The next match will take place in September.
  • In addition, the Department of Education said it would propose to eliminate the three-year income monitoring period. Officials will stop sending requests to borrowers for income information during the aforementioned years. Furthermore, the DOE will consider removing it entirely during the upcoming negotiated rule-making.
  • Disabled students and advocates believe this will bring change to the program. Persis Yu, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, said the vote is “long overdue.” However, Yu hopes the Education Department will review the eligibility criteria to determine when someone holds a disability discharge.

Yu added that Social Security’s match does not identify some qualified borrowers.

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