The Best Test?


In 2001, The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) made the decision to delegate the ACT as the state college entrance exam. Law required every junior in Colorado have the opportunity to complete the exam and high school students invested time and money in preparing for the test that would have a large impact on their acceptance into a college.

That is, until 2016 when the CDE made the decision to switch the exam to the College Board’s SAT in order to align more closely with state and national academic standards.

“We brought together a committee that consisted of a broad variety of education professionals and they reviewed those two proposals and heard presentations from both of those companies,” Dr. Will Morton, Director of Assessment Administration at the CDE, said during the annual Colorado Student Media Association Capitol Hill Press Conference. “They made the recommendation to make the shift [to the SAT].”

For students who had been preparing for the 2016 ACT test for many months, this deviation was unwelcome. Parents who had spent money to enroll their student in test-prep classes were frustrated that any information learned as a result would contain no value on the SAT.

As a result of  backlash from the school communities, school boards appealed to the commision for the switch to be made for the class of 2018 rather than the previously intended 2017. This decision allowed for the class of 2018 to take the PSAT and begin preparation for the state SAT the following spring.

In order to help students study for the SAT, the College Board began to offer free resources through their partnership with the non-profit educational resource organization Khan Academy. By offering these resources to students from low-income families, College Board could ensure that all students could adequately prepare for the SAT.

Due to the College Board’s role in the standardized testing, the SAT has created a forum for students that offers consistent feedback across all of the subject based assessments, helping students stay on course. It also supports teachers as they adjust their instruction for students who are either ahead or behind before they are required to take the physical test.

As for the argument that one test may give students more of an advantage, there is no significant evidence that the SAT holds sway over the ACT or vice versa. The benefits are on the state level over the individual students.

“Since it’s a choice you can make, it has the feeling of being a significant choice, fraught with implication, but I don’t think it does matter,” McGrath-Lewis, director of admissions at Harvard College, told the New York Times in a 2007 interview debating the ACT and the SAT. “Either is fine with us, and we don’t have a feeling that either favors students with any particular profile.”

This April will mark the transition from the ACT to the SAT, and although students are required to try their luck at the College Board exam, they will continue to have the opportunity to take part in the ACT if they wish to take both sets of scores into applying for college.


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