By TMoM Team Member Katie Moosbrugger 

If you’re a parent of a college bound rising sophomore or junior, you are probably already thinking ahead to the next couple of years. We all know how stressful this time can be for our kids, especially with tests like the SAT. But what you may not know is how maddening it can also be for parents.

This past spring, my high school junior took her first official SAT on March 13. Afterwards, we picked her up and headed 10 hours to our spring break destination. Of course we immediately asked how it all went. Her reply: “It was fine but the weirdest thing happened…”

And so began the drama.

She explained how, 30 minutes into the test, the proctor came over and said she was recording her test answers in the wrong section. For those of you who don’t remember or know about the SAT, it has four sections: two verbal sections and two math sections. But, my daughter reassured us, the proctor told her not to worry about it. “This happens all the time,” the proctor said. “Just continue on with this second sheet and we’ll submit both answer sheets to College Board.”

Also for those who don’t know…College Board is the one, and only, organization that administers and scores the SAT (and AP) for students across the globe! More on that later…

With spring break ahead, we pushed any concerns to the back of our minds and knew we would get the scores on March 26 as promised on College Board’s website.

March 26 came and went with no scores. Several other families we knew whose child took the SAT received their scores on time, but not us. Another week went by with no scores, but I wasn’t overly concerned…yet.

After three weeks of no scores, I started to get concerned. I called College Board several times. When I finally got through to a live person, I was always passed along to voice mail. Despite leaving messages, my calls were never returned. The same thing happened with several emails I sent. No responses.

I even reached out to a college admission Facebook group for advice. One mom in that group privately messaged me to say she had a “secret” contact at College Board she could share with me. That secret contact said she’d escalate my concerns.

Another week passed. Still no scores.

Then FINALLY, more than ONE MONTH later, my daughter received an email from College Board.

Her scores were CANCELLED, without any refund. No further explanation.

The email was vague, but it also alluded to accusations of cheating. They said an “investigation” was conducted and a small group of students had their scores cancelled from the March 13 exam.

That could mean any number of things. If someone cheated in the same classroom where she took the test, all those scores could be cancelled. If she happened to sit next to someone who cheated, her scores could be cancelled by proxy. My daughter’s guidance counselor asked if she innocently violated any behaviors (looking at phone, talking to someone in the classroom). We learned later that none of this held true.

But if College Board has even the slightest suspicion of cheating, a black mark could go on her file. Worst case, she could be banned from ever taking the SAT again.

Here’s the thing: my daughter is bright, but she is definitely NOT crazy, calculating or competitive enough to even TRY to cheat. Not to mention, my daughter didn’t even WANT to take the test. It was just another box to check on her journey to college. And, to be honest, she doesn’t care that much about her scores.

She did not cheat. She screwed up on her answer sheets. She did what the proctor told her to do.

I started researching all the fine print on College Board’s website. I once again started calling every number and emailing every email address I could find at College Board. I was constantly told no one could talk to me other than someone in the Testing Integrity Office. I was continually passed off to voice mail messages. I was regularly receiving standard email replies that said no more information could be given.

That’s when the mama bear in me came out. I became livid.

I called the school where the test took place and demanded to talk to the testing coordinator and the proctor. I had a record of which classroom she took the test in, so it was easy to determine who the proctor was. To my relief, they were both extremely accommodating and helpful, and corroborated my daughter’s story of the two answer sheets being submitted. They also confirmed no “irregularities” were recorded that day (aka no cheating) and that they submitted an anomaly (aka explanation) to College Board to explain the two test sheets. They also tried several times, on my behalf, to explain this situation to College Board. But like me, they also continued to hit a brick wall.

No one would talk to us or hear our story. It was maddening! This one organization, College Board, held the keys to my daughter’s future and they wouldn’t open up or let anyone in.

As moms, we do anything for our kids. There had to be a way to resolve this. They don’t say, “Don’t poke the bear” for no reason, right?

At last desperation, I got on LinkedIn and started searching for College Board corporate contacts. I also cross referenced a few on Facebook, and shockingly, one of the “higher ups” at College Board had a friend in common with me here in Winston-Salem! I reached out to this friend – who reached out to her friend – and once again we put the wheels in motion.

Two days later, we received an email from College Board… “Scores have been released on your College Board account.”

That was it. No explanation why. No apology. The end of our nightmare. Just like that.

My guess (and the guess of my daughter’s guidance counselor and the site’s testing coordinator) is that College Board received boxes of SAT answer sheets, did not see the anomaly explaining my daughter’s two answer sheets, and got confused. They couldn’t tell if some type of cheating or irregularity occurred, so their solution was to simply cancel her scores. Just a guess, and sadly, it may have solved their dilemma but it only created a bigger nightmare for us.

So, why do I share this story? Because I know there are other mama bears out there too. We all need to stay vigilant on whatever journey we’re on. We all know what our child is capable – and not capable of. Don’t ever question your maternal instinct. And to all you with rising high school sophomores and juniors facing the SAT next year, Godspeed.

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