Alphabet Soup: ACT to SAT

By Kayla Smithgall

On the last day of the legislative session in May of 2015, State Legislature passed a law regarding state assessment. The law required that the 10th grade assessment must be aligned to the Colorado Academic Standards and the corresponding college entrance exam. It also required that both assessments go through a competitive procurement process every five years.

On Dec. 23, 2015, a state procurement committee appointed by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) chose the College Board, the makers of the Scholarship Altitude Test (SAT), over the American College Test (ACT) testing company. This means that for the first time since 2001, Colorado high school juniors will be taking the SAT test rather than the ACT test, beginning in the spring of 2017. Also, this spring of 2016, sophomores will be taking the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) rather than the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test they took last year.

RE-1 Valley Superintendent Dr. Jan DeLay was one of the 15 people asked to be on the evaluation committee. The committee was made of educators, district administrators and a representative from CDE.IMG_2390

“We all received an email in the beginning of December asking us to review the proposals,” she said.

According to the CDE, “it is important for parents and students to know that the SAT is an approved, recognized assessment option in the Colorado Commission on Higher Education’s Admissions Standards Policy and a well-established, recognized credential presented by students from around the world. Also, all public colleges and universities in Colorado have experience understanding and interpreting SAT results in the context of their admissions processes and will accept the new SAT for admission and scholarship consideration purposes.”

The College Board revised the SAT in 2015 so juniors will be taking an updated version this year. Their exam program, “demonstrated appropriate alignment to the High School Colorado Academic Standards in Mathematics and Reading, Writing and Communicating when evaluated on the basis of academic content knowledge and rigor/cognitive complexity.”

“We based our decision on the needs of the Colorado students and we felt students would do better taking the SAT. It was more aligned to current academic standards,” said DeLay.

The board also felt that the scores of the PSAT and the SAT were easier to compare.

“The College Board has partnered with Khan Academy. They will provide free practice for upcoming juniors based off of their PSAT results from their sophomore year. Based off of the results, they will receive a free personal study guide,” DeLay said

They have also partnered with community-based partners Boys and Girls Club and RoadTrip Nation “to enhance equity and opportunities for all students.” Their scholarship partners include American Indian Graduate Center, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, The Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the United Negro College Fund.

The PSAT is similar, “in design, style and content to the SAT with a logical, seamless progression in the level of complexity from the 10th grade exam to the 11th grade exam.”

Both the SAT and the PSAT, “provide opportunities for students to employ higher order thinking skills and apply content and conceptual knowledge to authentic situations, which are valued components within the Colorado Academic Standards.”

The tests are, “authentic to classroom assessment styles and are text-based responses which require rhetorical and argumentative analysis.”

The College Board also has a phone app for both Apple and Android devices that “provides free practice features, including a question a day and immediate scoring of a paper-based practice test using the app and the phone’s camera.”

“I believe the new tests will allow students to show what they have learned with these new tests that also provide free online support to help students improve, if they wish to improve their scores. I also encourage our juniors and sophomores to relax, don’t get stressed out,  get a good night’s sleep the night before the assessment, give it their best thinking, and I send all of our students my best wishes for the day, but also all the days that follow!” said DeLay.

As of now, the testing date for sophomores has not been determined. Juniors will be taking the ACT on Apr. 19.

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