New report warns against using ACT, SAT in lieu of state tests
- Achieve, a national education non-profit, is cautioning California and other states against substituting the ACT or SAT for state accountability tests, citing concerns over whether college readiness tests adequately measure how well students are learning state academic standards, EdSource reports.
- Under the ESSA flexibility, California is currently considering a bill that would require the state superintendent of public instruction to select a college readiness test as an alternative to the current Smarter Balanced test beginning in the 2019-20 school year.
- Though 13 states already plan to offer the SAT or ACT instead of state assessments and more states are considering the move, Achieve warns that the test substitution will “distort” teacher priorities as they align instruction to the new tests.
The Every Student Succeeds Act allows states more flexibility regarding testing options, but this flexibility seems to be creating more stress — at least initially — as they struggle to make the best decisions for their students. California seems to highlight that struggle as it weighs the options.
College readiness exams, such as the ACT and SAT, are shorter, allow more time for classroom instruction, and offer all students the opportunity to take college readiness tests for free, an important step toward college admission. On the other hand, critics argue that the college assessments are not fair to all students and do not adequately measure learning of specific state standards.
To make the issue more complicated, there is money involved. In an earlier article from EdSource, John Fensterwald wrote: “Switching to SAT or ACT also would mean a loss of revenue for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a states-run organization in which California is a governing member and the largest contributor.” And IB educators who have examined the two tests federally funded under the Obama administration — Smarter Balanced and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC — say they are just glorified multiple-choice tests.
In an article in US News and World Report, John Murphy, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, NY, which offers IB courses to all students regardless of grade-point average, said of these tests: "We have to be practical, and prepare kids so they can pass the tests. But the tests are so flawed that it's impossible to base instruction on them."