Bill would allow the SAT, ACT to replace state assessment

Bill would allow the SAT, ACT to replace state assessment

(Calif.) Legislation that would allow school districts the option of replacing the state’s high school assessment with either the SAT or the ACT has been brought back after being vetoed by the governor last fall.

Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach and chair of the education committee, is the author of AB 751, which appears to be unchanged from the version that sailed through both houses of the Legislature last summer only to be rejected by former-Gov. Jerry Brown.

Specifically, the bill would require the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction to evaluate and approve of one or more nationally recognized high school assessments that a local school may use instead of the Smarter Balance Summative Assessment for 11th graders, beginning for the 2021-22 school year.

According to a staff analysis of last year’s version, AB 1951, integrating the two most prominent nationally recognized assessments—the Scholastic Aptitude Test and American College Test—into the California testing system as well as the state’s curriculum standards, would require some effort.

Staff estimated that it would cost the state about $543,000 in the first year and $1.3 million by 2021-22.

They also noted that local educational agencies are provided $4 per student to cover the cost of the existing Smarter Balance Summative Assessment. The cost of administrating either the SAT and the ACT would be much higher—closer to $45 per student. The difference, the analysis pointed out, would have to be absorbed by the LEA.

The California School Boards Association was the original sponsor of AB 1951 and had support from a long list of local districts. Although it was opposed by the California Teachers Association and state schools chief Tom Torlakson, the bill passed out of both houses of the Legislature without a single negative vote.

O’Donnell, the author of both bills, has argued that the expense of taking the SAT or the ACT stands as another barrier for many high school seniors that might otherwise attend college.

“(AB 751) will expand access to college and bridge an equity gap for students to take these exams,” O’Donnell said in a statement last week. “As a teacher and as chair of the Assembly Education Committee, providing the SAT or ACT at school for free ensures that all students, especially low-income students, are able to meet an important step required for college admission.”

Brown’s veto message last fall didn’t clearly indicate why he wouldn’t sign the bill.

“While I applaud the author's efforts to improve student access to college and reduce ‘testing fatigue’ in grade 11, I am not convinced that replacing the state's high school assessment with the Scholastic Aptitude Test or American College Test achieves that goal,” Brown said.

“Our K-12 system and our public universities are now discussing the possible future use of California's grade 11 state assessment for college admission purposes,” Brown continued. “This is a better approach to improving access to college for under-represented students and reducing ‘testing fatigue.’”

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