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We are committed to providing you with the most up-to-date resources and announcements from the college admissions testing landscape. Here are some of the top headlines from this past month:
No ACT Test Sites in CA in July; ACT Presses NY and CA Over “Truth in Testing” Legislation
Summary: As we reported on our blog, ACT has officially announced it will not offer the July ACT in California. That means the July ACT will not happen in both California and New York. In the press release from the ACT, officials explain that this decision is due to the two states’ “Truth in Testing” laws that require the ACT to release a certain number of exams to the public based on the number of exam dates administered in these states. The ACT claims that releasing additional exams (and thus adding the July test date) is cost prohibitive and would make the exam more expensive for consumers. ACT is pressuring both states to modify their laws so that the ACT can stick with just three released exams each year and still offer the full slate of test dates to California and New York.
What this means:
- In this press release, ACT also throws a bit of extra shade at California for the state’s lack of coordination on the issue. Last year, when ACT tried to send test copies to the state in compliance with the law, no state agency would take them and no one knew where to send them. Perhaps this disorganization explains why the announcement of California’s removal from the July test list is so late.
- It wouldn’t be entirely surprising for California or even New York to make a concession in this case if there’s enough pressure from students who want access to the extra dates. However, it’s also very possible both states will dig in their heels against the test organizations given parent/student/teacher traditionally stubborn stand against standardized tests in these states. (Both states are leaders in the Opt Out movement.) It could go either way here.
- It will also be important to keep an eye on how these old laws come into play when the SAT and ACT move to computerized testing in the next few years. The laws were written in the 1970s, and as the ACT notes in its press release, these laws need to be modernized. (Though the ACT isn’t referring here to applying the law to computerized tests. Wonder how the ACT would react to that form of modernization.)
ACT Makes Another Heavy Investment in Ed Tech Firm
Summary: ACT announced a $7.5 million investment into edtech company Smart Sparrow today. Smart Sparrow is a platform that allows educators (mostly higher-ed professors) to create adaptive, online courses. This is one of many investments that ACT has made in edtech companies over the last few years. In making this move, ACT wants “to become more involved in the learning process, and provide more analytics solutions to teachers and students. Among the nonprofit’s goals are to eliminate the paper test and go fully digital in the next 3 to 5 years.”
What this means:
- ACT’s investment coincides with its recent announcement of ACT Academy, a new, free, online, adaptive platform for studying for the ACT. It’s not clear yet if ACT Academy will use all, part, or none of Smart Sparrow’s technology. But it likely will at some point.
- ACT has gone much more aggressively after edtech relationships than SAT has. College Board only has its partnership with Khan Academy, while ACT has invested millions of dollars in various companies. Much of this difference is likely due to the leadership at the top of each organization but also indicates a different level of commitment to technology. ACT’s CEO Maarten Roorda, named to the post in 2015, has a long track record of working with education and testing companies in learning analytics and adaptive testing. David Coleman at College Board, on the other hand, as a background grounded more in traditional education and testing.
- ACT’s aggressive investment in edtech does increase our confidence in the company’s ability to bring its computer-based version of the ACT to market this fall. As a reminder, the ACT plans to move all international testers starting in September 2018 to a completely computerized ACT. After delaying the timeline one year, ACT stands by the new 2018 deadline.
SAT Participation in NYC Surges
Summary: NYC’s Department of Education has released statistics on student participation in the city’s free SAT program. Starting last spring, all NYC public school juniors were offered a free SAT on a school day. “The city’s education department said that 61,800 high school juniors took the test…, a 51 percent increase from the year before.” Racial gaps also narrowed in terms of the percentage of students who took the exam:
- Hispanic: 74% of juniors took the SAT in 2017 compared to 46% in 2016
- African American: 75% compared to 47%
- White: 83% compared to 62%
- Asian American: 89% compared to 73%
“But there remained a divide in how they performed. Black juniors scored an average 449 points on the math, 100 points lower than their white peers. Asian students outscored both groups with an average of 589.”
- A huge win for the NYCDOE and the College Board. Everyone from all sides is celebrating this step forward. (Except maybe the ACT?)
- And an even bigger win for students. As studies we’ve covered in our newsflash before show, expanding access to college entrance exams expands access to college.
- NYC is part of a national trend. The number of states and school districts offering the SAT to all juniors for free has nearly doubled in the last three years. Look for more to follow when other districts and the CB can point to New York as an example.
Acing a Big Test: The City’s Very Smart SAT Move Pays Off (New York Daily News)
Record Number of City Students Took the SATs Last Year (New York Post)
New York High Schools See Increase in College Admission Test Takers (Wall Street Journal)