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Sudden cancellation of Oakland SAT leaves hundreds of students scrambling

Sudden cancellation of Oakland SAT leaves hundreds of students scrambling

An SAT exam scheduled at the downtown Oakland Marriott was canceled after students waited hours Saturday for the test to begin.

An SAT exam scheduled at the downtown Oakland Marriott was canceled after students waited hours Saturday for the test to begin.

Christian Leonard/The Chronicle

Hundreds of students who came to Oakland to take the SAT on Saturday were informed — after hours of waiting in the exam room — that the exam had been canceled due to internet connection problems.

Some participants estimated that 2,000 students came to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland to take the college entrance exam. Although the SAT is entirely online, students must take it at testing sites. But the shortage of such sites across California has forced many families to travel long distances to test sites — if they can find one with free slots.

Lainie Motamedi, board president of the San Francisco Unified School District, said she was thrilled to land a last-minute spot on Saturday’s SAT for her son, an 11th grader. They even reserved a room at the Marriott so he could be in the exam room at the scheduled start time of 7:45 a.m.

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The problems started immediately, said Greyson Jones, a Grade 11 student from Half Moon Bay. Students attempted to access the exam, but the online system only displayed a “loading” message. Test managers checked several times, but only said they were working on an issue with Wi-Fi.

When officials finally announced they were canceling the exam, students applauded, Jones said.

“We were so tired,” Jones added.

But the students couldn’t leave yet. The proctors had collected their phones, and when they realized how long it would take to return them one by one, they placed all the devices on a table for the students to find theirs, a process that took nearly an hour for some of them, which may have made theirs impossible. phones vulnerable to theft.

“Overall, it’s a pretty horrible experience,” Jones said.

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Lainie Motamedi, introduced during her 2022 swearing-in to the San Francisco Unified School District board, said SAT problems began shortly after she landed a last-minute spot for her son, a 11th grade student.

Lainie Motamedi, introduced during her 2022 swearing-in to the San Francisco Unified School District board, said SAT problems began shortly after she landed a last-minute spot for her son, a 11th grade student.

Stephen Lam/The Chronicle 2022

Participants were told their SAT fees would be refunded, said Eunice Charles, who drove her 11th-grade son from El Sobrante to take the exam. But it was not immediately clear if and when they would receive a new testing slot.

The College Board, a nonprofit organization that administers the SAT, and Marriott Hotels did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Charles said his son did not necessarily need to take the SAT because the University of California and California State University systems do not consider student scores as part of their admissions process . Some other colleges have made entrance exams optional. But many California students still want to take it, Charles said.

“They should just open more sites,” she added.

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Motamedi, president of SFUSD, said the next SAT date she could find within a 100-mile radius of San Francisco was an October test in Fairfield. But she is hesitant to enroll her son in this position, because he will already have to take care of university applications in the fall.

“It’s a lot to balance,” she said. “That’s why we were trying to do it in the spring.”

The tests are “filling up really, really fast, and it just doesn’t seem fair or equitable,” Motamedi added. “It’s just another stressor and unnecessary burden on these kids.”

Contact Christian Leonard: [email protected]

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