New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen FariÃ±a has announced that the city will offer the SAT to all public school juniors at no cost as an incentive to encourage more students to apply to college.
The New York Times' Elizabeth A. Harris writes that education leaders want to remove any barriers they can so students who might not normally take the test will give it a try.
"The opportunity to go to college should never be decided by students' backgrounds or ZIP codes," Ms. FariÃ±a said in a statement. "I only became the first person in my family to go to college because a teacher let me know it was an option and supported me through the application and enrollment process so I could follow my dreams of becoming a teacher."
The change will take place in the spring of the 2016-2017 school year along with several other statewide efforts to increase the number of students who take the SAT or ACT. Some states, such as Kentucky, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, require students to take the ACT as part of their mandated high school testing.
The Education Department offered free Preliminary SAT (PSAT) exams during the school day to sophomores and juniors beginning in 2007. As a result, the number of students who participate in the testing has almost tripled.
Connecticut announced this summer that it would begin requiring 11th-graders to take the SAT as a replacement for a current exam. Part of the reason for doing so was to reduce the amount of testing.
Before the change, 83% of Connecticut's students already took the ACT. In New York City, however, only 56% of the class of 2015 took the SAT at least once, says the Education Department.
The principal of High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan, Daryl Blank, thinks that allowing students to take the test during a regular school day and paying for registration are both excellent ideas. Even though students will not be required to take the tests, educators hope this move will become routine for the city's students, writes Beth Fertig of WNYC Public Radio.
About 15,000 students will take the test this spring at 92 high schools as a trial run at no cost to the juniors. Deputy Chancellor Phil Weinberg says the program is an investment the city is making in its learners.
Next year, all juniors and sophomores will be able to access free in-school testing and will also be given personalized practice accounts on the online service Khan Academy. They will receive application fee waivers if necessary.
"Previously, only some students, no matter how talented, made it to the SAT on the weekend, " said College Board president David Coleman, who praised city's decision. "Now, all students will take the SAT during the school day, which evidence shows has a deep impact on college access."
The College Boards says that in the upcoming school year, the SAT will be given for free during the regular school day in every public high school in Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia, along with over 100 districts in 17 states.
The initiative will cost approximately $1.8 million per year — a small price to pay, says FariÃ±a, who added that from the time a student enters Pre-K, he or she should be college-bound, reports Lisa L. Colangelo for the New York Daily News.