On December 23, 2015, Colorado’s Department of Education (CDE) announced surprising testing changes after reviewing bids from both the ACT and the College Board test providers. CDE awarded a five year contract to the College Board; the revised Preliminary SAT (PSAT) and SAT tests will be administered respectively to 10th and 11th graders. For the last fourteen years, juniors had been taking the ACT, and had the option to use this test for college admissions. This will still be the case with the new SAT.
According to the CDE, the PSAT is aligned with Colorado Academic Standards and will replace the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam for tenth graders, used for state and federal accountability. Eleventh graders will no longer take the PARCC assessment, thereby reducing their test taking time.
It is too early to tell how students will perform on these new tests. However, the new, more difficult SAT is similar to the ACT, with a 90% overlap between the two, according to test prep experts. Through a partnership between the College Board and Khan Academy, students have had access to free online SAT preparation. To compete, the ACT recently launched its own online prep tools, for a low cost or free (to eligible students).
Current college-bound juniors are going to be impacted by this mid-year switch to the SAT, as many have been prepping for the ACT. Another issue is that students taking the new SAT in the spring will not receive their scores until May, thereby making it difficult to decide whether subsequent testing (SAT or ACT) should be planned. The CDE has acknowledged the challenge of a new unproved test for current juniors, by indicating a willingness to explore flexible options. The latest option considered is to revert back to the ACT for current juniors for this year only. Hopefully a final decision is made quickly, to decrease the angst that juniors, parents and educators are experiencing.
Ferah Aziz is a college coach with launchphase2. Visit www.launchphase2.com to learn more about coaching for college bound & college attending students. P. Carol Jones is the author of “Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able.” Visit www.towardcollegesuccess.com to read excerpts and to follow her blog.