Wednesday, August 17, 2011

State to Provide College Entrance Exams for High School Students

As part of Idaho’s efforts to create a 21st century classroom that better prepares every student for postsecondary education, all high school juniors can now take the SAT or ACCUPLACER placement test for free, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced today.

“Our goal is for every Idaho child to be college- and career-ready,” Superintendent Luna said. “For the first time, every Idaho student will have the opportunity to take a college entrance exam, paid for by the state, and to know whether they are prepared for the rigors of postsecondary education. This is an important piece of our Students Come First reform efforts to create a 21st Century Classroom and make sure Idaho students are prepared to succeed in the world that awaits them.”

The Idaho State Board of Education proposed new high school graduation requirements for the Class of 2013 to ensure more students graduated from high school prepared to go on to postsecondary education or the workforce. The Legislature approved these new requirements in 2007. Among these requirements, students must take an additional year of math and science and complete a college entrance exam before the end of their junior year. Students can take either the ACT, SAT, COMPASS, or ACCUPLACER test.
This year, lawmakers appropriated $963,500 for a statewide contract to pay for the test. After a competitive bid process, the State Department of Education selected the SAT as the best test to meet the needs of students as well as the most cost efficient.

The Department has signed a one-year contract with the College Board, the non-profit education organization that administers the SAT and the ACCUPLACER, for $920,000. The contract also includes a free SAT online preparation course for all 11th graders, optional re-testing through the ACCUPLACER Placement Test for students who do not meet the college and career benchmark on the SAT, and a web-based tool that allows students to see the link between SAT scores and college- and career-readiness skills.

“The College Board is excited to partner with the State of Idaho to give all incoming high school juniors access to the SAT. While we are only beginning our relationship with the people of this great state, the SAT has a long history of promoting college access and success,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “The exam is widely respected across the country and is accepted by every Idaho college and university, as well as the majority of colleges and universities in the U.S. This partnership will open doors for thousands of students and will help foster the culture of opportunity that so many Idahoans are striving to build.”

The State Department of Education convened a group of educational stakeholders, including representatives of local school districts and higher education, to review the bid proposals with Department staff.

Reviewers selected the SAT because it included more comprehensive tools for teachers and students, in addition to flexibility in the school day testing date. For example, students will have the opportunity to take practice tests online to familiarize themselves with the SAT format and question types. The SAT provides faster score reporting for students and access to online score reports.

In addition, students who need remediation can retest in their senior year under Idaho’s contract.

Don Coberly, Superintendent of the Boise School District, served as a reviewer. “I am excited that our high school juniors will all have access to the SAT next year, as we work to ensure that more students are prepared for post-secondary pursuits,” Coberly said. “I am especially pleased that students will have access to online tools from the College Board that will assist with preparation for the exam.”

The SAT tests reading, math, writing skills and knowledge students acquire during high school, and also shows how well students can apply their knowledge, a factor critically important for college success. States such as Maine and Delaware already have contracts with the College Board for statewide SAT testing.

Through Idaho’s contract, students will take the SAT free of charge during the school day. Students will still have the option to take another college entrance exam, but must pay for it at their own expense.


  1. I see the name of only one reviewer for the test material. I don't know Superintendent Coberly but I would be surprised to learn he is expert in college science preparation. I teach entry level college science courses and I have studied what makes a difference in student preparation - you can find a short report at . I wonder who is determining whether this test will be successful at determining preparation? Is there a list of reviewers available? What evidence is there that this test will be a good measurement? Thanks for responding.

  2. I don't see a way to edit my original comment - upon reading the comment, I see I am not clear. The SAT does indicate general success in college, so it will be a good indicator of that. But it seems to me it is important to know the areas where preparation is good and the areas that need attention. How will this tool help the state improve specific areas? In the study I mentioned in my original comment, it's clear that teacher content expertise is an important factor in student college success. How will the SAT help us learn this kind of information?

  3. Thanks for questions and comments. I will have someone on our Assessment team touch base with you. Thanks, Melissa.

  4. I admit, these types of exams are very hard. You won't likely pass unless you studied well. That's why I bought a reviewer, and boy did it did help me. I passed the exam, and I love my new friends!

    Aurora Orsini