Teachers, students frustrated after PSAT miscommunication

By Sammy Heberlee

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Junior Brandon Hotchkiss came to school early last Wednesday, thinking that he would use the few extra minutes he had for some last-minute studying for the PSAT. But when Hotchkiss went to his assigned testing room, he quickly found out that not only was his room assignment wrong, he also would be unable to take the test altogether.

Delays to the PSAT — and administrators’ choice to communicate to parents less than they had in previous years — left teachers, students and parents disappointed and frustrated last Wednesday.

In the weeks before the test, administrators had posted student room assignments around the first floor in a timely fashion, notifying students of their testing locations. However, on test day, many teachers’ rosters didn’t match the students who had arrived in their classroom, with rosters lacking updates. 

“Everyone was running around trying to find where they were supposed to be,” junior Ava Zambri said. “It took people 20 minutes to find the right room.”

Teachers had no way of knowing students’ assigned room numbers because there was no available master list of students and their corresponding testing locations; the list they received only had names, no testing locations.

“We were provided with a list of students. Just page after page of student names. There’s no homeroom. There’s no room number. There’s nothing,” a teacher said. “We were told, ‘If students come to you and they don’t know where to go, check this.’ It has nothing. We were given a list that has nothing to do with helping them find their testing location.”

Administrators sent an email with the final reminders of the PSAT day agenda to teachers at 9:12 p.m. the night before, with only partial instruction beforehand.

“Everything should have been set to go at least two days before the test,” a teacher said. “Every issue comes back to the fact that there was a complete lack of communication.”

Before the test, administrators sent two emails to parents concerning PSAT registration and payments. In past years, administrators often gave English teachers information about sign-ups to relay to students, but this year, teachers weren’t given any instructions. Also unlike past years, students weren’t given any letter or instructions to bring home to their parents regarding information about signing up and paying for the PSAT.

“My parents apparently got an email, but they never check their emails, so I didn’t know I had to register,” junior Madison Zhao said.

Even after tracking down their correct room assignment, many students couldn’t take the test because they registered and paid the $18 fee after the original Oct. 11 deadline, but before an extended Oct. 14 deadline that in an email to parents administrators had communicated would be acceptable. Administrators then only ordered test booklets for those who had registered by the original date.

“Half of my homeroom showed up thinking they were taking the test, and I only had eight booklets because they didn’t know they had to pay ahead of time,” a teacher said.

In addition to unclear information about registration, administrators never distributed basic instructions for test day. Students didn’t know to bring calculators, something they need for one of the math sections. 

At other high schools in the county, including Damascus High School for instance, parents received multiple email reminders in the weeks preceding the PSAT, including one the night before reminding students to bring pencils and calculators. 

“We’re the ones on the front lines,” a teacher said. “It was poorly organized, but the thing that’s worse is that it negatively impacted students’ performances. For teachers, I know that’s where we feel is the most upsetting part of the day. Our frustration is secondary to the fact that our students aren’t being able to perform as well as they could.”