Packer Institute SAT Scandal Gets More Egregious

It appears that last Thursday’s story regarding 199 students having SAT scores invalidated at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights is more serious than originally suspected. The New York Times reported then that the collegiate entrance exam results—including those for 63 enrolled at Packer—were nixed because proctors failed to set up students’ desks at least four feet apart.

However, the Wall Street Journal intimated that a surprise audit by the Educational Testing Service, which administers the SATs on behalf of the College Board, “revealed numerous infractions”—which now appears to be painfully true, with school head Bruce Dennis saying he was “blindsided.”

The Times reported today that over the weekend, an internal memo obtained by the newspaper reveals the proctoring problems were quite extensive:

Before the test began, proctors left booklets unattended in classrooms for approximately 15 minutes, and during the test [proctors] were ‘on cellphones, on laptops, reading books and reading test materials,’ all of which were prohibited. They also allowed students to select their own seats for the exam, a direct violation of a rule that calls for test supervisors to seat students randomly. And, as the students returned to their test rooms after breaks, the proctors failed to verify or ask for identification.

Packer officials at first accused ETA of overreacting, but on Friday expressed “surprise at the extent of the problems,” The Times reports. Packer was also to host another SAT exam in June, but it has been ruled out while the school makes “necessary adjustments,” according to the memo.

Bruce Dennis, head of Packer, said he “relieved the supervisor of her testing duties after the scores were thrown out,” and that he was “blindsided” to learn of the further grievances: “This is an extremely bad situation. They’ve taken what I thought was an overreaction and just made it worse.”

Read the New York Times article here.

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  • harumph

    Can we just think about the kids for a second instead of the PR disaster – these students study hard, prepare, take the 4 hour test on May 5th…then they are told that they are going to have to retake the test and they have 4 day notice – then the day prior (Friday) they are told that the College board has changed its mind and will announce a new date for the retake – most likely in June on the day when the subject tests are taken and therefore they will have to forfeit the opportunity to take them. Holy Smokes, can this get worse for them?

  • Villager

    ok, but if you studied and truly learned from your studies, then the new test date shouldn’t really matter. In fact, it could be argued that re-testing gives a slight edge with more time to study and a chance to preview certain aspects of the original test. It’s unfortunate that there is no easy path to a remedy.

  • Freddie

    I feel bad for the kids. Totally not their fault and they pay the price, big time.
    This Bruce dude should start looking for a new job.

  • WillowSt.Neighbor

    You took the words right out of my mouth.

  • TeddyNYC

    Those kids got shafted. I hope Bruce Dennis gets fired for his incompetence. There’s no excuse for what the NY Times described.

  • stuart

    Teachers and parents in Brooklyn Heights do not really respect standardized tests. They think they are a waste of time. They know how brilliant the children are without having to subject them to the demeaning process of being graded and ranked by strangers.
    Seriously, this is the message I get from many local parents.
    Our local schools better start shaping up and getting with the program. This country is a meritocracy and it relies on testing for academic and professional accreditation. Accept it.

  • A Neighbor

    If you think these schools — and local parents — don’t care how their kids do on these standardized exams, you are so wrong. On the contrary, all understand that these tests are the ticket to the most competitive colleges.

  • mjw

    What a mess. But I think some of you are placing too much blame on Bruce Dennis. The test is administered at Packer over the weekend and the proctors are hired by the College Board to do a job. Although some are also employed during the week at Packer, they are not working for Packer during the test.
    Bruce Dennis was given little to no information from the college board even after repeated attempts. He had every right to be blasting them for how poorly the situation was handled in terms of communication and remedy. He immediately said he had removed the person in charge from the role and would hold others accountable. If the college board is hiring these proctors they should be training them appropriately. In the end, nothing excuses the college boards disasterous handling of the situation for the students. Bruce Dennis was just trying to get answers from a brick wall.

  • Josh G

    Stuart – are you suggesting that parents in the Heights think their kids are above standardized tests? If so, that is reckless and idiotic. Everyone thinks their kid is brilliant. That’s what standardized tests are designed to do.. they set everyone on an equal field and their scores give weight to merit.

    If parents want to not subject their kids to these demeaning tests then they can home-school them through college.. because every school worth attending requires these tests.

  • Willowtowncop

    I started studying for the GRE recently, and you take it on a computer at a testing site at your convenience. Seems like a much better way to administer the SAT too because you’re testing what people are capable of without the pressure of a fiasco like this.

  • WillowSt.Neighbor

    You are so wrong. I defer to Josh G’s remarks about why you are so wrong. He said it best.

  • Helge

    Packer has just gotten itself reinstated as a test site for June 2nd and 16th and is now declaring ‘victory’ and the chance to move forward. Nice for them but shows tremendous CYA on their part. The kids still got their test scores invalidated despite doing nothing wrong and deriving no benefit from proctor sloppiness (of which the kids were completely unaware). Dr. Dennis is missing the point congratulating himself and parents will be very upset with him.

  • Josh G

    Thanks Neighbor!

  • north heights res

    To say that standardized tests offer an equal playing field shows a a lack of understanding of research on the tests. They privilege certain backgrounds and certain types of intelligence, and they bear little relationship to students’ ability to success in college.

    More and more colleges and universities are making the SAT and other such standardized tests optional, including some, I would venture, that most reasonable people would consider “worth attending.”

    I’ve taught high school for 25 years, and the value of these tests has been steadily discredited throughout my teaching career. They are at this point a necessary evil, but their main benefit is to the College Board, which makes a lot of money off kids, and to college admissions offices, which use them to reduce kids to the least common denominator.

  • David on Middagh

    My understanding is that the SAT score was used to validate a student’s grades. How else would a college admissions officer compare the grades of applicants from different schools, or even from the same school but with different instructors?

  • north heights res

    David, here are a couple of ways in which the validity of the SAT has been challenged. Obviously, different organizations will have different outlooks.

  • north heights res

    And if you’re interested, here’s a list of institutions of higher education whose admission requirements make standardized tests optional:

  • The Anti Academic

    I certainly don’t condone what the NYT & WSJ articles are insinuating, but this obsession with where one goes to college has got to stop! 2 years after graduation it’s for all intents and purposes meaningless. My company hires a lot of entry level grads around this time every year both from local schools like St. Francis, Iona College, Manhattan, CUNY, & Wagner in Staten Island, as well as from Ivy League schools, and prestiguous public and private schools like Duke, Stanford, Villanova, Michigan, etc.

    The majority of the kids we hire perform very well and of those that remain at the company for 3 years or more, there is virtually no difference in performance between the local kids from the less prestigious schools and the ones who graduated from Ivy league or other more prestiguous institutions. Those that don’t make it run the gamut from all kinds of schools.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most Packer students don’t aspire to St. Francis, CUNY, or IONA type schools. I’m not even saying that they should, but the notion that your life is over because you didn’t get into Princeton or wherever is ridiculous. The only discernible difference is that the grads from more prestigious schools definitely are more self absorbed and have a much greater sense of entitlement, and complain more when things don’t go there way. Personally I’d hire a smart kid from CUNY or Marist than some brat from Tulane or Villanova any day of the week but that’s just me.

    To put things in perspective, the most prominent criminal defense attorney in our city went to Brooklyn College and Northern Ohio College of Law. Granted, he probably wouldn’t have been hired by Sullivan & Cromwell by my point is well taken. You don’t even have to be a college grad, let alone a law school grad to be a practicing attorney in th State of New York. You just have to pass the bar.

  • north heights res

    Amen, the anti-academic. I do a lot of hiring, and I never even look at where people went to school. I look at their experience and activities.