There's outrage among school districts, parents, students and teachers in Colorado about a new plan requiring high school juniors to take the SAT rather than the ACT beginning this spring.
The decision for the SAT to replace the ACT as the state assessment for college and career readiness came from a 15-member committee appointed by the Colorado Department of Education. The decision was made two days before Christmas.
That's part of the outrage -- the decision coming just three months before high school juniors are scheduled to take the test, many of whom have been preparing for the ACT for years.
In a strongly worded letter to parents, urging them to contact the CDE, Cherry Creek superintendent, Harry C. Bull, Jr., calls it a figurative 11th hour switch that could disrupt any given student's chances at college.
“Students who have been preparing for the ACT exam for the entire 2015-16 school year or even for the majority of their secondary school years will suddenly have to face a completely new set of prospects for the spring,” said Bull. “Students and families who have paid for private prep classes and exercises will now have to pay to take the ACT test in the spring.”
“It’s like trying to change the tire while the car is moving," said Cherry Creek Schools director of communications Tustin Amole. “And then, subject them to a test that they've never seen. That, in fact, none of our educators have ever seen because it's a new test.”
“The CDE's decision is troubling," Bull said in his letter. “(It) will be a disadvantage to all students."
Xan Hammond has an 11th grade daughter at Cherry Creek, and another daughter who is a sophomore at Kansas University.
"All the colleges we applied for looked at the ACT scores first,” said Hammond. “We gave them SAT scores, but everything seemed to apply to the ACT when they were pulling information about scholarships and money."
In response to a barrage of concerns, the CDE is now backing off and working on what it calls a "transition plan" for this year's junior class.
"We are hoping to be able to give the ACT exam to this year's 11th grade students," said Dana Smith, director of communications for the CDE.
Interim CDE commissioner, Elliott Asp, sending out a letter of his own stating, “To require this year’s 11th graders to take the SAT… would not be in their best interest."
"It's going to be very jarring for them to take a test that they simply aren't prepared for," said Amole.
The transition plan still needs approval from both the SAT and ACT vendors.
"We're optimistic,” Smith said. “But, nothing is final yet." A final decision is likely to come by the beginning of next week.
The 15-member selection committee is made up of educators from rural, urban and suburban districts across Colorado. It made the switch after taking bids from both the SAT and ACT vendors as part of a new state law requiring the CDE to put it out for bid.
“This is not a criticism of the SAT,” said Amole. “It's a very good test. But we need a longer transition period.”
The transition plan would only apply to this year’s junior class. The 10th grade class would still be required to take the PSAT.
“After a very thorough review, the committee decided that they would choose the SAT exam,” said Smith. Smith said it was a financial decision, along with a variety of other factors. “They found that the SAT exam was more closely aligned to our Colorado academic standards.”
FYI: All public Colorado schools take results from either test. The University of Denver does the same.