College & Workforce Readiness Report Roundup

College Admissions Tests Do Double Duty

By Catherine Gewertz — December 08, 2015 1 min read
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States are increasingly using college-entrance exams as their high school accountability test, the Education Commission of the States finds in a new report.

New Hampshire and Connecticut, for example, made that shift when they opted to require the SAT instead of the Smarter Balanced test for their high school students. The move can reduce layers of testing, since students in some states have had to take required end-of-year or end-of-course tests along with the SAT or ACT.

But drawbacks also come with this choice. As ECS points out: “Students who are not on a college track may not benefit or have an incentive to perform well [on college-entrance exams] unless these assessments are used for high stakes, such as high school graduation. Additionally, using one exam for multiple purposes may jeopardize that assessment’s validity.”

The ECS report also says that more states are opting in to a “blend trend,” in which testing groups such as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers have allowed states to customize tests, harvesting a few or a lot of questions from test developers’ item banks as they wish.

The blended approach comes with some caveats, however. According to the ECS, while it may give states a way to navigate the complex political pressures related to assessments, it can potentially make it difficult to compare results across states; limit states’ access to some of the consortium’s additional resources, such as aligned interim assessments; and increase development time and costs compared with other approaches.

“States that seek to follow the blended approach will need to carefully weigh the costs and benefits of this strategy,” the report concludes.

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A version of this article appeared in the December 09, 2015 edition of Education Week as College Admissions Tests Do Double Duty

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