From ACT/SAT to State Exams, Midwest Mulling Testing Options


The state of Illinois has decided to stop having their 11th-grade students take the ACT college entrance exam, which high-school students take for free. Instead, the state’s schools will be giving the SAT, a test widely given on the East Coast, but just now beginning to take hold in the Midwest, reports Diane Rado, writing for the Chicago Tribune.

ACT entered a formal protest last week, which could derail the three-year, $14.3 million contract to the non-profit College Board, the organization that provides the SAT, according to state records.

Until the protest is resolved nothing can be finalized, but switching to a new college entrance exam after 15 years of high school juniors taking the ACT has Chicago districts wondering what to do about spring testing schedules.

Illinois has no budget for statewide testing. When they became aware of the problem, districts signed up earlier this year for ACT testing at their expense when necessary. Other school districts seem agreeable to taking the SAT because of resources like free test preparation that they say will better-support students.

In 2015, Common-Core PARCC exams were administered to grade school and high school students, but the Illinois State Board of Education moved the ACT off the required state test roster, making it optional in 2015.

A new law passed this summer required that a college entrance exam must be included in the state testing program, writes the Associated Press. By this time, the state’s contract ended with the ACT and the state began a search for a new test — and the SAT won. The SAT proposal was $1.37 million less than the ACT over a three-year period.

ACT spokesman Ed Colby said the company is:

“… analyzing the submitted proposals and working within the process dictated by procurement requirements.”

The College Board is engaging with some Illinois schools that are interested in giving the SAT this spring. In 2015, 157,047 students from private and public high schools who took the ACT. In 2015, just 6,000 students who graduated from high school took the SAT.

Questions over mandated testing are increasing in volume in the Midwest as states look for financially-viable and effective solutions. In Indiana, both parties in the legislature seem ready to overhaul the state’s standardized testing programs well as the A to F school accountability assessment, which is coming after continued delays in ISTEP exam scoring reports.

Last week, Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) described the administration of Indiana’s annual achievement test for third through eighth as a “disaster” and a “fiasco.”

According to Dan Carden of The Times of Northwest Indiana, the test vendor, CTB/McGraw-Hill, because of multiple technical issues, has postponed the release of test results for the May 2015 exam until at least mid-January.

Bosma hopes that changes in federal education laws that were approved this month will give the state the ability to reform its testing and accountability systems in ways best for Indiana and not necessarily to what federal mandates set forth. In Indiana, test results decide, at least in part, teacher pay and the A-F assessment grade for local schools.

But Bosma does not think policymakers can design new testing and accountability measures in the ten weeks the Republican-controlled Legislature will be in session after it starts in January.

Sen. Brandt (R-Buck Creek) said there will be another attempt to replace ISTEP with an existing test used in other states to reduce costs, decrease time spent on test-taking, and to easily compare state students with students elsewhere.

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) said:

“This all has occurred because instead of listening to educators about what’s the best way of testing our students and getting accountability, we allowed all the politicians to get involved.”