CHICAGO (CBS) — From missed proms to canceled graduations, the class of 2020’s final year of high school fizzled without much fanfare. Now, rising seniors have discovered the problems aren’t over as they head into their final year before college. They’re stressed trying to nail down times and dates to take college entrance exams.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory explains the latest drama with the ACT.
With virtual class and virtually any school event canceled, the pandemic still leaves Rachel Johns with a normal rite of passage. The rising senior is readying for college application season, and needs to take the ACT exam.
“We know that we have to participate in them in order to succeed, and there’s a lot of frustration coming from that,” she said. “You really have to look at all the practice tests and be prepared for any type of question.”
There’s also a lot of pressure for students who still need to take the ACT, which made problems with the standardized test’s website this week a powder keg.
“You see your child and other children. I’m gonna cry, give me a second, because it’s frustrating. It is frustrating,” said Rachel’s mother, Donna.
Donna might be embarrassed by those emotions, but she thinks of the tears in other class of 2021 households.
“I do feel like we need to band together and speak up for our children,” she said.
COVID-19 cancelled many ACT tests in spring and summer. Then registration for fall testing blew up, due to unusually high demand last week.
On Monday, ACT tried a new system that quickly had registration issues.
“Which set a certain amount of panic, because you only have 20 minutes, and you’re gonna get kicked out,” Donna said.
Calm came with a testing date secured 70 miles away in Buckley, Illinois. It was the closest site available.
“I was very happy, very relieved,” Rachel said.
Unfortunately, after closing Rachel’s registration, they found out she was given the test site of Abilene, Kansas.
“I was kind of shocked, because it’s 636 miles away from where I am,” Rachel said.
“It was a sick feeling that we had,” her mother added.
Panicked parents flooded the ACT student Facebook page with similar complaints about being registered for test sites far away from home. A commenter from Illinois ended up registered for a site in Alabama. An Ohio mom said she was sent to Florida. A Maryland family was registered at a site in Kentucky.
Others were angry that seniors didn’t get priority over juniors.
Instead, younger students were asked to “be a buddy” and choose a later testing date.
“The universities and scholarship organizations need to acknowledge that there are going to be a vast amount of students without test scores,” Donna said.
Why does that matter? The ACTs can help students like Rachel get academic scholarships.
ACT public relations acknowledged its system experienced a “data mapping error,” causing some test center mismatches. They promised to fix that issue:
“Some students are reporting a mismatch between their test center and the location that appears on their admission ticket. This was caused by a data-mapping error between platforms, and we’ve since pulled these mismatched test sites from MyACT so it can’t occur for other users. We’re working to fix all instances of this mismatch to ensure that all registrations are reserved in the intended test center. Once this is fixed, students can find their assigned test location by logging into MyACT. We’ll also follow up by email to affected students.”
The college entrance exam company said COVID-19 capacity limits have dwindled the number of seats it can offer at testing sites. Coordinators are working to secure more spots.
As for why they don’t give priority to seniors or other students who had previous tests canceled, ACT provided the following response:
Unfortunately, it’s clear the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us into the fall. This means continued limitations in test center capacity and inevitable cancellations throughout the remainder of our 2020 test dates. To the best of our ability, class of 2020 and 2021 seniors who had their April, June, and/or July test date cancelled have been placed in seats at sites that are currently open.
Some students in this category could not be automatically registered for a number of reasons, including:
- If they requested a refund from April, June or July, their registration record was removed from our system so we were unable to automatically register them, as we migrated to a new registration site called MyACT since the July 18 test date.
- If we couldn’t place them in a seat that was within 350 miles of their home address, we did not. We are continuing to increase testing space for fall test dates and waiting to hear back from test center coordinators to add seats to MyACT. We encourage students to check back in MyACT as seats will continue to be added.
- If there were technical issues with their account information, like duplicate email addresses for multiple accounts.
From a technological standpoint, we could not prioritize registration for seniors so they could register ahead of other classes. We sincerely wish we could have.
We are doing everything we can to secure additional space for students who will need more options. In addition to the changes we’ve already made to add more capacity (opening up our Sunday testing to all students and adding new test dates in September and October), here are a few more examples of what we’re working on:
- Pop-up sites in areas most affected by cancellations.
- Partnering with commercial testing companies to share their already-existing space within your communities.
- Working with state Boards of Regents, colleges, and universities to help them administer “On-Campus Testing” for their students.
- Working with school districts to help them become an ACT test site for their students (these are called unlisted test centers and are not available on MyACT.