Colorado Department of Education offers college entry exam transition | PostIndependent.com

Colorado Department of Education offers college entry exam transition

A decision by state education officials to use this year to transition from the ACT college entry exam to the SAT, rather than make the switch immediately, is good news for local high school juniors and educators.

The Colorado Department of Education on Monday confirmed that it can administer the ACT exam to high school juniors this year, while sophomores will be taking the newly adopted PSAT in preparation for taking the SATs next year.

"We're thankful that the testing vendors were willing to work with us to create a transition year for our 11th-grade students," Interim Education Commissioner Elliott Asp said in a news release.

"Our high school juniors can take the assessment they've been preparing for, and we will work with districts, educators and the College Board to create a smooth transition to the SAT in 2017," he said.

The agreement does not change the state selection committee's decision last month to award College Board a five-year contract to administer the PSAT and SAT to Colorado's 10th- and 11th-grade students.

Rob Stein, assistant superintendent and chief academic officer for the Roaring Fork School District, said he was pleased that the state backed away from requiring juniors to take the SATs this year. But the switch ultimately makes a lot of sense for the long haul, he said.

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"Had they done it for this year, it would have been very hard to make a smooth transition," Stein said. "Our teachers and counselors have been working hard to prepare students to take the ACT, and it would have been hard to make a switch on short notice."

Big picture, though, Stein said the SAT college boards are more aligned with the new Colorado Academic Standards.

"Both the ACT and the SAT are good products, but when you look at them side by side I wasn't surprised by the decision to switch," Stein said.

The College Board, which administers the SATs, also produces the Advanced Placement coursework that the Roaring Fork School District uses for its AP classes, he noted.

"So the skills students are developing in those classes should be reflected in the college entrance exams," he said.

One of the lead authors of the new state standards is also part of the College Board.

High school sophomores will begin taking the PSAT this spring instead of the state Partnership for Assessments in Readiness and Careers, or PARCC, exams. Those tests, now administered in grades three through nine, measure students against the state academic standards in math and English language arts.

The shift in the state's college entrance exam, which also serves as the required academic assessment for juniors, was a result of state legislation passed last year that required the department to go through a competitive procurement process for both a college entrance exam and a new 10th-grade exam.

That process typically takes six to nine months, but the state issued a request for proposals for the exams in November and received bids from the College Board and ACT.

After reviewing the two proposals, a 15-member selection committee chose the College Board's SAT as the college entrance exam and the PSAT as the 10th-grade exam, with the original goal of administering the new tests for the current school year.

Complaints from school district administrators across the state that the switch would be unfair to this year's juniors who have been preparing for the ACT prompted the state to work out a transition plan with the two test administrators.

Both ACT and SAT are accepted at colleges and universities in Colorado and throughout the country.

The ACT will be administered to 11th-grade students on April 19, and local districts will have the choice of administering the PSAT to 10th-graders on April 19 or 20.