Revived bill promotes college entrance tests in high schools

Revived bill promotes college entrance tests in high schools

(Calif.) Lawmakers are pushing a second time to promote college readiness and reduce testing in high school by allowing districts to use university admission assessments in place of the current standard statewide exam.

Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach and author of AB 751, said that by allowing students to take a college entrance exam rather than the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment, or SBAC, more kids would be on track to earning a degree.

O’Donnell noted that additional steps would need to be taken to ensure that any alternate test supports statewide efforts to hold schools accountable for student performance.

“This bill will allow school districts to choose to administer a college entrance exam such as the SAT or the ACT instead of the SBAC for 11th grade students,” O’Donnell said during a Senate committee hearing Wednesday. “The superintendent would have to approve alternative assessments, and the assessments must meet specified requirements–they must be aligned to the state standards, and there must be concordant studies to ensure that this is a fair test and that it aligns with our accountability system.”

Specifically, AB 751 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.

The bill is identical to legislation O’Donnell introduced last year, which made it to the governor’s desk without a single negative vote in either house of the state Legislature, only to be rejected by former-Gov. Jerry Brown.

In his veto message last fall, Brown said that “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.”

O’Donnell would appear to disagree. In addition to holding that the bill would curtail over testing, he has also argued that the expense of taking the SAT or the ACT stands as a barrier for many high school seniors that might otherwise attend college.

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

Spokespeople for The Education Trust-West and Public Advocates expressed concern that, among other things, districts using different tests with scores that couldn’t truly be compared for the purposes of statewide school accountability.

Sen. María Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, told O’Donnell that while she understood the concerns that had been brought up by opponents of the bill, she would ultimately support it–in part because it must first address some of those issues prior to implementation.

“What appeals to me is that there are a number of things that would have to be done before this is implemented, and that you’re thinking out of the box,” Durazo said. “And I think that’s important in public education right now.”

AB 751 passed out of the Senate education committee. more