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When A Test Switch
Doesn’t Make The Grade

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Opinion: One State’s Decision To Make The Sat The Official Test For College Admission Places Unfair Burdens On High School Students

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By Kenny Lieu
Modern Times Magazine

May 22, 2017 — In late December 2015, the Colorado Department of Education made a sudden and suspicious decision to switch from the ACT to the SAT.

This controversial decision, made without consulting school districts or teachers, came only two days after Illinois made a similar move. Under the new legislation, juniors would take the new SAT in the spring of 2016.

However, this led to a host of complaints from students, parents, teachers, superintendents and the Colorado Association of School Executives, the latter of which filed a formal protest.

College Board, the owner of several college entrance exams, finally affirmed that juniors would not start taking the SAT until the spring of 2017.

As a current high schooler finishing junior year, this meant that on April 11, my class was the guinea pig for the unpopular shift from the ACT taken by Colorado juniors since 2001.

Although both are accepted college entrance exams lasting about three hours long, there are many differences between the ACT and the SAT.

The ACT, administered by ACT Inc., is a four-section test consisting of English, math, reading and science. Each section’s score is averaged to form a composite score on a simple 1 to 36 scale.

On the SAT, administered by College Board, half the score depends on the reading section, and the writing and language section, while the math section accounts for the other half. These two parts add up to a total score ranging from 400 to 1,600, in intervals of 10.

Both tests have an optional essay, with a separate score of 1 to 12 averaged between four categories for the ACT and three different scores of 2 to 8 on the SAT.

Change isn’t easy for anyone. In March of 2016, College Board started administering a completely new, redesigned SAT. The new SAT saw significant changes, not only in format and scoring, but in question style and content covered. The changes are recent enough that neither my school nor my local library have any books on preparing for the revamped SAT.

On the other hand, the ACT has remained constant over the years, with no significant changes. There are helpful ACT books in both the counseling office of my school and the public library.

In addition, there are a series of tests that help ease students into taking the ACT in 11th grade. I took the EXPLORE test in sixth and eighth grade, and would have taken the new ACT Aspire in 10th grade if not for the Colorado Department of Education’s untimely decision to switch to the SAT (the ACT Aspire, released in 2014, is a series of tests from third to 11th grade that help students prepare for the ACT).

In my opinion, the ACT is a more fair test than the SAT. High schoolers who have taken both tests know that particularly on the reading section, the SAT’s questions are more ambiguous and debatable, often times containing two equally good answers or two equally mediocre answers.

This is where having the time and money to take an SAT prep class can give students an edge. The SAT doesn’t test critical reading skills; it assesses your test-taking skills.

Regardless of what College Board claims, I have found that the ACT is more aligned to what is taught in high school than the SAT. The ACT emphasizes skills practiced in school, like extracting essential information and interpreting graphs.

While the SAT is purely focused on English and math, the broader ACT includes a science section testing analytical skills and has specific Reading passages about social science, the humanities and natural science.

Another point of note is College Board’s questionable business strategy. Colorado’s national SAT test date this year was chosen to be April 11. The last day of regular registration for the May SAT was April 7, and registering after that date incurred a $28 late fee.

This meant students who didn’t want to get charged extra had to decide whether to retake the SAT in May before even having taken the April test. To top it all off, April scores are scheduled to be released just barely after the regular registration deadline for the June SAT. Honestly, they’re actually pretty clever for thinking of all this.

I can’t change the fact that the mandatory SAT, rather than the ACT, was the only test given to juniors in Colorado free of charge. I just feel bad for all the teachers (including mine) who will be evaluated by their students’ abilities to adapt to a new, unfamiliar test.

But all I can do is hope that no one in the future will fall victim to unwarranted change like the one brought upon us by the Colorado Department of Education.
Before Trump supporters call Painter a leftist, he is not a lifelong Democrat, but a former ethics lawyer for George W. Bush.

Sure, to many Trumpettes, that’s nearly as bad as a Democrat, but in the real world, it shows how deep condemnation of Trump has gone.

Vladeck for one, stopped short of saying Comey’s firing was a constitutional crisis — but that it looks like it is leading to one.

“Constitutional crisis? Not yet,” Vladek said. “The crisis has much more to do whether we are allowing the erosion of norms protecting the Justice Department and FBI.”

Yet, he says if Trump nominates a “yes man” to the post, that is when things will start heading down the constitutional crisis lane.

“The identity of the next FBI director will be hugely important,” he says. “If ... the nominee is someone who is generally likely to be close to the president or not stand up to the president, then we will reach a crisis.”

Painter says it is clear to him that a special prosecutor is needed while lamenting the fact that the statute for a special prosecutor expired. That would necessitate negotiations as to how that person or office would be able to do their work.

“It is important when we talk about public leaders telling the truth, that we acknowledge that we expect our leaders to tell the truth. We have had presidents lie: Clinton lied about his sex life and Nixon lied about the burglary. I do not know who lied about contact with the Russians,” Painter said. “I do not know who else is lying, but it is a critically important issue that we get to the bottom of it.”

Agreed.

And while it is easy to get frustrated at the entire ordeal and just want to get the national nightmare over, there can be no easy fix. Our republican democracy is sometimes plodding, and seems to not be working just before someone or something happens to put it right again.

So for all of those worried that our current national nightmare will likely get worse before it gets better, take solace in more of Gerald Ford’s comments from Aug. 9, 1974.

“Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men.”

Eventually even those hardcore Trump supporters will wake up.

Then and only then, will our current national nightmare truly be over.
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