Nowadays, the phones are an issue. The phone may not ring, and students may not touch them during the test, during the break, or at any point. Boys often wore sweatshirts with hoods, and I made sure their hoods were down. I wanted to know where the students were looking. The main thing I was about was honesty.
Green: Has anyone in your classroom attempted to cheat?
Rorison: I've had kids whose eyes start to wander and I would walk down the aisle. I wouldn’t say too much, but I would stand right next to them so they knew I was watching them. I've never had to ask someone to leave the test. If a student used a passport for identification, for example, I wondered how well that they understood the directions. Two or three years ago, a Russian student was taking the test, and his phone rang. I immediately went over, and I wasn't quite sure he understood the instructions. If the phone had rung twice, he would have been out of there.
Green: What would you say is the most challenging part about overseeing the SAT?
Rorison: Probably just keeping an eye on the kids. [All you can do is] read the instructions slowly, and keep an eye on them. You want to be sure they understand the directions.
Green: What motivated you to do this job on top of your position as a teacher other than the extra pay?
Rorison: I always liked working with the kids and teaching. I saw the SAT as part of the basic process of getting into college. I took the SAT in 1949—ancient history. Then I administered it for 53 years. My children took the SAT to go to college. My grandchildren took the SAT to go to college. It's, to me, the standard entry point to enter the university.
Green: What do you say about efforts to do away with it?
Rorison: I would raise questions about that. I think the colleges look at grades, but depending on the high school a student went to, the grades don't necessarily have equal meaning. One of my students ended up as an admissions officer at a college in Pennsylvania, and he told me that they have various opinions of various high schools. A B grade in one school is not necessarily the same as a B or an A at another. I think the test, with its uniformity, at least tells the college how a student knows English, math, etc.
Green: What if students are poor test takers?
Rorison: You can't go through college and constantly be a poor test taker. You've got to, at some point, be adequate. You're going to take tests for four more years, in various subjects. You're going to take tests to enter various professions, so it's part of life at that level.
Green: You said that you took the SAT yourself in 1949. Describe your SAT experience.
Rorison: That is quite a while ago. The test was basically English and math; we did not do an essay back in those years. I was admitted to several colleges, and I went on to get my bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees from Temple University in Philadelphia. When I took the test, I think I was probably anxious like everybody else. I wasn't quite sure what it was all about, and I only took it once. Obviously, in 1949, 1950, the percentage of kids graduating from high school who went to college was a lot smaller than it is today. Just working at Abington over the years, I've seen the percentage of Abington graduates go to college rise.