Garfield Re-2 officials welcome Colorado’s ACT decision |

Garfield Re-2 officials welcome Colorado’s ACT decision

Ryan Hoffman

Monday’s’ announcement that high school juniors will be able to take the ACT this year, as the state transitions to the SAT assessment, came as a relief to school districts across the state, including Garfield Re-2.

Colorado education officials announced in late December that the state would be switching from the ACT, which Colorado has used since 2001, to the SAT, a different college entrance exam created by College Board.

The five-year contract with College Board, a nonprofit education organization, also included the PSAT assessment, which will be administered to high school sophomores.

The original announcement surprised some people who were concerned that students preparing to take the ACT would be unprepared to take the SAT. As those concerns escalated, the Colorado Association of School Executives protested the decision on Jan. 6 and sent a letter, dated Jan. 7, to the state board of education.

The announcement on Monday by the Colorado Department of Education does not negate the previous agreement, but allows current high school juniors to take the ACT this year.

“We’re very thankful that the testing vendors were willing to work with us to create a transition year for our 11th-grade students,” Elliott Asp, Colorado’s interim education commissioner, 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.”

Re-2 was not free of the widespread anxiety following the initial announcement of the switch, which was announced while the district was on break.

“It was not welcome news,” said Todd Ellis, principal at Rifle High School, who first heard of the decision on Christmas Day.

Rick Elertson, principal at Coal Ridge High School, echoed those remarks.

“It would have been problematic for the kids … “ he said.

While both principals said there was concern expressed within the district, particularly among teachers, everything happened so fast that neither Ellis nor Elertson heard much outcry from parents. The timing around the holidays also likely lessened awareness of the news.

Both were grateful for the announcement Monday, as were other district officials, including Re-2 Board President Anne Guettler.

Like Ellis and Elertson, Guettler said she did not hear much outcry from district parents, but the general feeling was that it would have been “really unfair” to make this year’s juniors take the SAT while they’ve been preparing for the ACT.

Going forward, the SAT will be a better fit, said Julie Knowles, director of assessment and special programs for Garfield Re-2. Knowles served on the 15-member selection committee tasked with making a decision on which assessment the state would administer.

The need to make such a decision stemmed from legislation that eliminated the new PARCC exams in English language arts and math for sophomores — instead, replacing it with an exam that needed to be both in line with Colorado Academic Standards and the college entrance exam taken by juniors. The PSAT will serve as that replacement.

In addition to the changes for sophomores, the legislation eliminated PARCC testing for juniors — participation rates for the first round of PARCC tests were particularly poor at the high school level — and required both the new exam for sophomores and the college entrance exam for juniors, which had been the ACT, be put out for a competitive bid.

After analyzing both the ACT and College Board’s SAT, the committee concluded that the SAT was best aligned with Colorado Academic Standards, which have changed in recent years as the state moved toward Common Core, Knowles said. Having a system from preschool through high school with assessments aligned to state standards will ultimately benefit the students, which is the most important matter, she added.

College Board also offered increased support for students, including a free mobile app to help with test preparation.

Both ACT and SAT are accepted at colleges and universities in Colorado and throughout the country. Additionally, all public colleges and universities in Colorado will continue to use both exams for scholarship-consideration purposes, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

Pending contract negotiations, the ACT will be administered to juniors on April 19, and local districts will have the choice of administering the PSAT to sophomores on April 19 or 20.

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