MSD, RSD superintendents displeased with ACT switch; state may delay action

RBC I The state may be reconsidering its most recent state testing change, and that would make local school superintendents happy.

As instructed by the Colorado State Legislature in the spring of 2015, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) put the state’s primary college and career testing assessments out for a five-year competitive bid process in November. Two corporations responded—the American College with their ACT and the College Board with their SAT.
The CDE announced Dec. 22 that a selection committee had chosen the College Board/SAT tests and that Colorado schools would begin providing the SAT rather than the ACT this spring.
Under state procurement rules, interested parties had seven days, beginning Christmas Eve, to comment on this decision before it became final. The ACT has been mandatory for Colorado high school juniors since 2001.
Meeker and Rangely superintendents of schools, Chris Selle and Matt Scoggins, signed on to a letter sent by many superintendents across the state this last week addressed to the Colorado Board of Education, which oversees CDE. Their bottom line was, “We urge the State Board of Education to reconsider this disappointing and disruptive decision. Please do what is in the best interest of our students and our school districts. Please, at the very least, delay this mandatory change for no less than one year and allow districts to choose either the ACT or SAT for 2016.”
Many superintendents, educators, students and others were shocked by the timing of the decision and that the state would move away from a long-established exam that drew few, if any, complaints in an era of anti-testing backlash.
In an email Monday evening to school district superintendents, Interim State Education Commissioner Elliott Asp noted the department is working with the two testing providers on a plan that would keep the ACT in place for one more year.
“I know that this is a high-stakes assessment for students, with college entrance, placement and scholarships on the line,” Asp wrote. “To require this year’s 11th graders to take the SAT exam this spring—after they have already invested time, money and energy in preparing to take a different assessment—would not be in their best interest.”
Asp did not provide a timeframe for a final decision. He previously promised that the department would explore “options for flexibility” for this year’s juniors.
The decision to delay the SAT implementation is not a done deal, according to CDE. The proposed option is that every junior would take the ACT this spring while the SAT would be the mandatory test for at least the next four years thereafter. In the meantime, sophomores would take the Preliminary SAT this spring. The scores on either test are part of the state’s system for holding schools and districts accountable for student performance.
In any case, regardless which test the state provides, the other test would still be available to any student. The catch is that the state required test is the only one paid for by the state. The option of taking the other test would be expected to cost the student $65 to $90, depending on the scope of the test chosen. Many colleges prefer one test over the other.
Colorado Chalkbeat, an education blog, stated this week that “the decision was a significant coup for the College Board, which has been working to wrest control of the market for mandatory tests away from the ACT. The new SAT, debuting this March, is designed to align with the Common Core, with a greater focus on analytical reasoning and other changes.”
The state’s mandatory testing requirement for sophomores and juniors was expected to be of significant interest at the Rangely and Meeker school board sessions on Tuesday evening.