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Despite budget concerns, SPS pays $60,000 for the PSAT

Annelise Bowser, Copy Editor
Originally published October 24, 2017


Despite a continually tight budget, Seattle Public Schools has paid $60,000 for the PSAT in addition to a $81,562 contract with the College Board that covers the cost of the actual tests. The SPS budget covers furniture requests to fill the gyms with desks for the test takers, extra test proctors for each test facility and snacks for students taking the 2 hour and 45 minute test.

Between the College Board contract and the district budget, the total cost for the standardized test district-wide is almost $150,000.

Lisa Coacher is the test administrator. “This is the second year Seattle Public Schools has payed for [the test],” Coacher said. “Before that, two years earlier, it was a federal grant called Race to the Top.”

This is the fourth year that every student in the Seattle Public Schools district has taken the PSAT without any fees. Before SPS received the federal grant that originally funded the PSAT, students who wanted to take the test had to pay for it and take it outside of school, like the SAT process today.

According to Audrey Roach of the Seattle Public Schools Curriculum and Instruction Department, SPS absorbed the high cost of standardized tests into its budget after the grant dried up because it’s a “high priority as a means to open up opportunity for every student in Seattle to be prepared for a postsecondary education,” Roach said in an email.

“I think it’s just really huge as far as equity,” Coacher said. “Even though our budget is tight, they’re going to still keep pushing it.” Because the PSAT is a major avenue towards AP classes, college recruiting and scholarships like the National Merit Scholarship, it is a high priority in district funding to give every SPS student as many opportunities as possible.
The test is also the primary form of preparation for the SAT for many students because the two tests “are almost exactly the same,” Coacher said. The SAT and ACT are a major requirements for college applications, and students often take both and use the higher of the two scores on their application.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the Race to the Top grant funds “implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform,” that covers a school’s standards, assessments, data systems, staff and administration. It is a $4 billion program and SPS received the grant in 2014.

The PSAT has been administered every year since 1971, and approximately 3.5 million students take the test each year. According to the College Board, “over 4 million students took the redesigned PSAT/NMSQT in fall 2015,” and in 2016, “students taking the first administration of the redesigned PSAT/NMSQT and the new PSAT 10 had access to nearly $180 million in combined annual awards.”

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Despite budget concerns, SPS pays $60,000 for the PSAT