Switch to SAT to have low impact on University admissions

By Genevieve Hummer, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 8, 2015

The state of Michigan will no longer require high school juniors to take the ACT. Beginning in spring of 2016, the SAT is the state’s new exam of choice.

On Wednesday, the Michigan Department of Education and Department of Technology, Management and Budget jointly announced that all students attending high school in Michigan take the SAT in place of the ACT.

The state requires that a college entrance exam and a job skills test, which evaluates students' possible career opportunities, are provided free of charge to all high school students.

These tests are competitively bid every few years and ranked by a joint evaluation committee made up of the MDE, the DTMB, a high school principal, a local school superintendent, a testing and assessment consultant from an intermediate school district and the vice president from a Michigan community college.

The College Board, which administers the SAT, won the three-year contract with a $17.1 million bid, $15.4 million less than the next bidder, the ACT, and was rated higher by a ten-point margin.

The shift to the SAT will be an adjustment for high school students, teachers and administrators.

Joe Greene, the principal of North Farmington High School in Farmington Hills, Mich., was relieved the state came to an agreement regarding standardized testing.

“We are just pleased that the state made a decision, that we actually have a clear picture of what we’re aiming at, and now we can use that to guide our work going forward,” Greene said.

The College Board has promised to begin providing free SAT preparation materials to Michigan high schools this spring.

Greene said that he wasn’t worried about the students at his high school transitioning to a new standardized test because he believes the school has made improvements in the last few years that have prepared their students for any type of test.

“In talking with my staff and my colleagues, we really believe that the work we’ve been doing in the last two years, to align with the Common Core and to align our instruction and the learning we’re causing to really create student achievement, it almost doesn’t matter what test we put in front of our students, we’re going to have them ready for it,” Greene said.

However, the change from the ACT to the SAT has some high school students worried that it will negatively affect their college admissions prospects.

Clara Kaul, a junior at Community High School in Ann Arbor, said the discrepancy between the ACT and SAT comes down to personal preference.

“There’s pretty mixed feelings because they’re two different tests, and there are people who do much better on one than they do on the other. Some people are for it, because it means they get to take the test they did better on, some people are against it, some people are like, ‘Oh, now I have to study for a different test.’”

Despite these worries, the revamped SAT, debuting in 2016, may alleviate the situation.

The College Board website said the focus of the SAT redesign is to create an exam that better predicts college performance.

The new exam will include an optional 50-minute essay, a reading section, a written language test and a math section.

Other notable changes include removing the penalty for an incorrect answer, limiting multiple-choice questions to four options instead of five and creating a test that rewards students for extensive classroom experience rather than the ability to reason.

These changes make the SAT more similar to the ACT, according to The New York Times, though it will take a few years to see if it is a better indicator of college readiness.

In spite of existing differences between the two standardized tests, the University does not foresee that the state’s decision to shift to the SAT will affect admissions.

“UM has long accepted either ACT or SAT scores with admission applications, so there is no immediate impact at UM from this change by the state,” University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote in an e-mail.

Michael Bastedo, director of the University’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, said one thing that will likely change after Michigan high schools begin offering the SAT is that the percentage of University applicants submitting the SAT will increase.

Currently, the College Board’s website says that 33 percent of first-time freshmen applicants to a university submit the SAT, while 79 percent submit the ACT.

Greene said he is uncertain how this shift will impact state universities, but expects it to be similar to the transition his high school will face.

“For the last several years the state schools have been used to going off the ACT and have been using that significantly for Michigan students,” Greene said. “Now they’re going to have to make a shift, but most in-state schools, to my understanding, have been accepting the SAT for a while, so I think this will be a transition, but like us they will accommodate and move forward.”

Daily Staff Reporter Nabeel Chollampat contributed to this report