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Michigan's switch to SAT from ACT needs more lead time, say some educators

Jan 8, 2015

Credit Shannan Muskopf / Flickr Creative Commons

Michigan's plan to switch its 11th grade standardized test from the ACT to the SAT in 2016 is too much change too fast, according to some educators.

Wendy  Zdeb-Roper, executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, said many of the state's high school principals were caught off guard by yesterday's announcement by the Michigan Department of Education.

The department has awarded a three-year contract for the state's college entrance assessment to the College Board which administers the SAT. The department said the contract with the College Board will cost about $17.1 million and  is about $15.4 million less over three years than the next bidder.

Zdeb-Roper said she doesn't "think anybody would argue that the SAT is not a quality assessment." But she says delaying the switch for a couple of years would let schools better prepare students for the change. 

"If we look at our tenth graders right now, we've been preparing them since 7th, 8th, 9th grade to take the ACT in eleventh grade," said Zdeb-Roper. So ideally current 8th graders, not 10th graders, would be the first to switch to the SAT.

Zdeb-Roper said high schools are also in the process of  implementing new Common Core standards and the new M-Step exam. Even though so much change at once is very challenging, she said educators will work hard to make the switch to the SAT work.   

Jim Cotter, director of admissions at Michigan State University, said the quality of an applicant's high school academic record is the most important factor in admissions decisions. He doesn't think the change in the state-administered college assessment exam will meaningfully alter admissions outcomes. 

Cotter added that Michigan's switch to the SAT does not prevent any student from independently taking the ACT for college admissions if the student thinks it is a better fit.

Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio Newsroom