Texas High Schoolers Must Retake SATs After Tests Fly Off UPS Truck

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The rumors had been circulating through the hallways of El Paso High School for days: Students had seen test papers strewn across busy Mesa Street on Oct. 28, and the pencil-filled Scantron bubbles were a dead giveaway — these were SAT tests, just like the ones that 315 students had taken at the school in Texas the day before.

“I was driving on Mesa Street back from the gym and all of a sudden, I see like, a bunch of papers just everywhere,” said Freddy Chavez, a senior at El Paso High School. “I really didn’t think much of it until a few days later, when I heard rumors that those are actually SATs. I connected the dots right away.”

Students were called to a meeting during last period on Wednesday and told the news: the SAT tests they had taken on Oct. 27 would not be scored, because they had flown off a UPS truck that was transporting them. Instead of using their results to finalize their college applications, the students would instead have to take the often-harrowing test again.

UPS is still conducting an investigation, but was quick to own up to its error. “We have apologized to the school and extend our apologies to the students,” UPS said in a statement. “The driver’s actions in this case are not representative of UPS protocols and methods, and we have addressed this with him. Safely and reliably meeting our service commitments is UPS’s first priority.”

Pablo Villa, the director of Community Engagement at the El Paso Independent School District, said it was not yet clear exactly how the tests had ended up scattered on the street, describing it as “a unique situation.”

Ezra Ponzio, a senior, said that when students first heard the rumors, they all hoped that it wasn’t their tests on the road. According to the El Paso ISD, all but 55 of the 315 tests were recovered. Mr. Ponzio said even though most tests were found, they were still considered compromised, so everyone would have to take the test again.

“They were like, ‘Hey, this is not our fault whatsoever. It’s on the UPS, but you still have to retake it,’” Mr. Ponzio said. “So that was annoying.”

The El Paso Independent School district said in a statement that the tests had been “securely submitted to UPS” and that the school was working with the College Board, which administers the tests, to remedy the issue. The College Board said in a statement that it was working to ensure the affected students could retest as soon as possible.

“I’ve spoken with a lot of my friends and they’re just very upset,” said Mr. Chavez, who didn’t sit for the SATs on Oct. 27. “This is just really, really unfair.”

Compounding the problem were the upcoming deadlines for early admission into colleges. Mr. Ponzio was hoping to apply early to his first-choice school, Texas A&M University, but now his test scores won’t be submitted in time. He said he may apply using the “test optional” alternative, but he worries that will affect his chances of getting in.

“It kind of puts a strain on things,” Mr. Ponzio said. “I don’t see it affecting the whole of my senior year, but I feel like it’s just like an added stressor on the side.”

The El Paso ISD offered waivers to affected students to take the ACT on Dec. 10 free of charge. Mr. Ponzio said he wouldn’t be doing that, because he prepared for the SAT and still hopes to take the test he’s more familiar with.

“It’s our senior year, we’re trying our best to get into these colleges and I feel like it could really hurt some of our chances to get into them,” Mr. Chavez said. “It really does affect people.”

Kirsten Noyes contributed research.