Canceled college entrance exams create issues for students, families

Posted at 10:30 PM, Jul 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 01:35:22-04

Over the past year, students from across the country have seen college entrance exams like the ACT canceled because of the pandemic. As of late, those cancellations, in some cases just days in advance, have left them with no alternative.

ACT manages the process of finding testing centers and test dates, but it is entirely up to the actual testing locations to stay open, close, or limit capacity. One area educational consultant says there haven’t been enough testing opportunities this summer for students already backlogged by the pandemic.

“They registered and as the date approached, they would get canceled,” said Nagla Orlando, an independent educational consultant on the Central Coast and founder of KnowledgeWorx.

Her goal is to supplement the counseling and guidance her student clients receive from school guidance counselors.

“The first registration that was at Arroyo Grande High School was overbooked,” Orlando said. “They had to move children to a place with some space and move those students with 2.5 weeks notice to Avenal.”

Several of her students had two exams canceled just days before, but with Orlando’s help, they were able to find a testing site. However, that’s a small percentage of the thousands of students facing the same issue.

“It’s rough and confusing. If you don’t know how to navigate the system and you receive an email like that saying that your admissions (exam) was canceled, you just follow the directions on the screen to register for the next test,” Orlando said. “You try to register for the next test and there’s no test to register for, what do you do?”

“They would try to get them into another test site, but if they’re not available, they just cancel them, and they have to reschedule for another one,” explained Danielle Murillo, a test coordinator for the Santa Maria Joint Unified High School District. “That just puts them off.”

For incoming seniors and those applying for secondary education in the coming months, no ACT score could result in a rejection letter.

“It does hinder them. It’s putting a lot of pressure on us,” Murillo said. “We feel bad as a test site that these students aren’t able to get in. We are doing everything we can to fill every room and get these students in.”

Cancellations happening across the state are causing a trickle-down effect and filling spots in testing sites on the Central Coast.

“I’ve got students coming from way down in L.A. I’ve got students from Sacramento coming to test at our site. Sacramento is five hours away,” Murillo said. “I have parents calling me asking if the test is still going to be held because they’re having issues at different test sites throughout California, saying their test has been canceled.”

But an even more complex problem is the lack of access to exams for thousands of students. When there is a family or a student without the means to travel to a different testing site, what do you do?

“I wish I had the answer for you. That is the bigger issue,” Orlando said.

Here’s a statement from ACT regarding cancellations and scheduling of the college entrance exams:

“We understand students are eager to test for a variety of reasons, and it is frustrating when cancellations occur. While ACT manages the process of recruiting test centers for national and international test dates, it is ultimately up to test centers to stay open, close, or limit capacity based on local public health guidelines and availability of sites and test center staff. ACT makes every effort to provide ample notice when we are notified by test center staff of site closures and reductions in capacity.
COVID-19 continues to impact testing capacity at test centers across the nation, due to necessary social distancing requirements for the health of students and test center staff. In spite of these constraints, we’ve been able to test a large number of students during each national test event and through state and district testing, since June 2020.
We continue to do everything we can to open up more capacity at test centers across the nation through unlisted test sites (hosted at a student’s school), pop up sites (in venues like hotels and conference centers), on-campus testing at colleges and institutions, and school day testing (where states and districts pay for students to take the ACT in school, making it free for students). This past September and October, we added additional national test dates to our fall testing schedule.
It is also important to note that space is limited in July, due to many schools (the majority of our test center network) being closed or having limited staff available to coordinate and proctor the test.
Registration for fall test dates opens in mid-July. We encourage students to sign up now to be notified when registration opens.”