As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, Dec. 19, 2010 is one of the fondest dates in team history to look back upon. Playing a late season game against the New York Giants with first place on the line, the Eagles trailed 31-10 with just under eight minutes to go. What followed was an epic comeback by the Eagles capped off with a punt return touchdown on the final play of regulation, leading to a hard to believe 38-31 win that propelled the Eagles to an NFC East title that year. Following the game the Eagles then head coach Andy Reid started his postgame press conference saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, but something to the extent of “Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?”
For fans yes, but I learned the next day on sports talk radio that it was not fun for the press covering the game. I learned that day that it’s not uncommon for reporters to start writing their game recaps early when a blowout seems imminent, as it did at the time when the game was 31-10. The late comeback, though enjoyed by Philly fans, caused a lot of last minute scrambling by reporters in both Philadelphia and New York to quickly redo their entire articles to meet their deadlines.
Last week was my chance to feel like those reporters. I had my original ideas for what to write about, and then College Board made their announcements about SAT changes. The essay is leaving the SAT after June, save for a few individual states with contracts requiring it. And subject tests are no more, effective immediately in the US and after June for the rest of the world. This made my original ideas for what to write about seem irrelevant in the moment.
It didn’t take long after the news broke to see reactions that are on two very different sides of the coin. Many lauded the decision as one that will create less stressors for our students. Others expressed skepticism about just how altruistic a decision can it really be from College Board when they are also the “non-profit” making the profits that they do, so there must be something else driving this decision.
Regardless of the reasoning behind this decision I’m personally glad that it was released now. Later this week we’ll have our big evening college presentation to juniors on what to expect over the next year and a half, key requirements, deadlines, expectations, etc. While this doesn’t answer every question about testing for the Class of 2022 as we just don’t know yet how many schools still stay test optional or blind and what the feasibility will be for testing in the spring and fall, at least we won’t have anyone panicking about finding a way to get two test sessions during a pandemic to allow for an SAT and a subject test.
Will this help calm nerves? It should, but we know it won’t for all. In the short term some students and parents are going to feel more nervous. They may have been counting on strong subject test scores to differentiate their applications, and if they were they won’t feel relieved at all by the news. For those of us in school districts that last spring went with a pass/fail or credit/no credit situation, we saw debates among parents and students play out that could be potential previews for how some people will react to this news. Some will cheer its equity while others will mourn the loss of opportunity to stand out. And I’m sure somewhere at least one student will plan a trip overseas just to take a subject test while the option still exists internationally.
If nothing else, for us in our field I think this is just another instance of getting to use two of our best skills, two that have been on large display the last ten months, adaptability and empathy. It’s old hat by now to talk about all the ways we’ve had to adapt in our work and the way we help students, and here we get to put that in action once again as we adapt the plans and strategies for some students.
For students and parents who feel this is a real loss of opportunity, no amount of talk about equity will help with those feelings in the moment. We should focus on hearing their pain/worry, helping them process that, and use it as a teachable moment in the long run while highlighting for them the many things they still have to show on an application. For the students who are happy with this news, then breathe a sigh of relief with them, they’re in good spirits today. But if the other shoe to this becomes students putting more pressure on themselves with AP testing, then that student’s stress is pushed down the road while still having a scheduled appearance.
However things will play out, I know that for those of us in this field it’s another opportunity to shine by helping our students. With last week’s Inauguration Day, it also dawned on me that many of the skills needed to be successful in this field would make any of us excel in a town hall with voters if we were ever running for office. I’m not sure that helping students navigate college admissions would prepare me for the national security aspect of elected office, but I think we’d all know how to make voters feel heard and validated. Yay for transferrable skills!