School hosts successful SAT and PSAT for students

December 1, 2020 — by Apurva Chakravarthy and Anjali Nuggehalli
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A group of masked seniors walks towards the designated exit after finishing their SAT.

On Oct. 27 and 29, Saratoga seniors and juniors came to campus under strict guidelines and precautions to take the standardized tests.

More than 400 students took standardized tests indoors on campus in late October, and none has reported coming down with COVID-19 as a result — the district’s main goal in allowing for the exams.

On Oct. 27, 151 seniors stepped onto campus for the first time since March to take the school-organized SAT. Because of the countless test center cancelations across California, many seniors jumped at the chance to take the standardized test locally. Two days later, 262 juniors took the PSAT, with 10 students and two proctors in each testing room. Los Gatos High School also hosted the SAT and PSAT on the same days.

Principal Greg Louie believes that the event was a success, mainly because he has not heard of any student getting COVID-19 after taking either test. He also was glad students had the opportunity to take these tests if they felt the need to.

After the test, parents of juniors and seniors made donations to show their appreciation to the school’s custodians and staff members as well as the district employees. A portion of the donations has been set aside to pay for the registration fees for any SHS students wanting to take a standardized test at the school. This fund, managed by the PTSO, will be used in future years to support students who may need financial aid when registering for the PSAT, SAT, or ACT. 

“Hopefully, this relieved some anxiety for some of our students and their families,” Louie said.

Also before the test, Louie created the signup sheets for proctors, coordinated with the district to fingerprint proctors and assigned roles to each proctor. Brian Safine, director of human resources at the district, came to the school to ensure that the fingerprinting was done in a safe manner. Louie also worked alongside Kathy Sheridan, the school’s guidance administrative assistant, who made sure all the tests and materials were ready for test days.

Before each event, students received an email which outlined their testing rooms and guidelines for them to follow on the day of the test.

On the test days, Louie was available for room monitors and proctors if they needed help and made sure all tests were being administered properly so no tests would be invalidated. 

He attributes the success of the administration of tests to all the parent proctors, who attended one night of training and had multiple videos to refer to.

“It appears that [the proctors] followed the directions expertly,” Louie said. “When they did have some questions, they would reach out to Ms. Sheridan or myself.”

He stated that the proctors understood the gravity of the situation and took their roles very seriously.

Saratoga parent Beth Kingsley decided to volunteer as a proctor for both the SAT and PSAT after being involved in the initial proposals to ask the school board and the administration to consider hosting these tests at the school this year. After the tests were approved, she was permitted to proctor both tests, because her daughter, senior Marisa Kingsley, had taken the ACT before and wasn’t taking either test.

“I definitely wanted to help proctor the tests, especially since I was already volunteer-approved with the school district,” Kingsley said. “So many volunteers were needed that I wanted to take part in the effort.”

Kingsley said she believes both the process leading up to the test day and the test day itself ran very smoothly.

Proctors were sent materials with proctoring instructions ahead of time so they could become comfortable with the directions. They also attended a Zoom meeting where they went through all of the rules and expectations for test day.

On the day of the test, each proctor answered the COVID-19 screening questions and received a box of materials with items like pencils, erasers, paper cups, and tissues. 

Kingsley believes the school took sufficient safety precautions for the test, as each room was sprayed and sanitized after the SAT and before the PSAT.

“The custodians went above and beyond to ensure the rooms were clean and safe,” Kingsley said.

Before entering their testing rooms, proctors asked students the COVID-19 screening questions. Additionally, students sat at their own desks six feet apart from one other. 

From Louie’s perspective, students respected the social distancing guidelines both before and during the exams. He observed students wearing their masks, using hand sanitizer and staying away from other students.

Kingsley said she observed similar behavior, stating that apart from one instance where she asked a student to pull up his mask, all of the students she saw were following the rules.

After the test, however, Louie noticed students were not following the guidelines as carefully.

“There were times where students were leaving and they would end up walking out with their friends in a tighter formation than what you would want,” Louie said.

Junior Madhu Ayyer was one of the many students who took the PSAT, and considered the exam day to be an overall positive experience.

Although Ayyer was nervous to take the PSAT, she felt the guidance of proctors made the process much more clear and efficient.

“My nerves were pretty high going into the test, so I’m glad that my proctors made it so easy to understand what was happening,” Ayyer said. “There was a lot of information to fill out prior to taking the exam, but the proctors did a really good job of walking us through it.”  

Ayyer also said her peers remained conscious of social distancing before and after the test, despite the excitement of seeing classmates for the first time since March. She thought for the most part, students were diligent in maintaining a six feet distance and keeping their masks on. 

“It was weird to see everyone for the first time during a standardized test, and I really wanted to stay behind to talk to all my friends,” Ayyer said. “But I think we all understand the seriousness of the pandemic and didn’t want to do anything to put ourselves or others at risk.” 

While Louie anticipates continuing to host the PSAT at the school as they have in previous years, he said he hopes the school will never be put in a position where they would be faced with extraordinary circumstances and have to host the SAT for students.

However, in the future, if circumstances occurred where students would need to take an SAT at the school, Louie said he would be open to the idea.

“Hosting the SAT annually is not my first choice because I don’t feel it’s necessary to take on another responsibility when it’s not critical,” Louie said. “But I will always do what’s best for our students and that’s what I pride myself on.”

 

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