Battling for market share against ACT Inc., the College Board is counting on its redesigned suite of SAT and PSAT tests to help it win statewide contracts, and it’s representing the push as a victory of opportunity for students.
In a conference call with reporters last week, College Board officials released a map of their statewide contracts, and the total
number of students who took the SAT during a “school day” program: 458,000 in 2015-16, up from 219,500 in 2014-15. Those numbers reflect students who took the SAT as part of a state-sponsored program, rather than signing up for it on their own.
College Board officials said that the PSAT and SAT represent opportunity because they’re now used more widely to provide free test-prep help, encourage promising students to try Advanced Placement study, and identify students for scholarships, and grant college-application fee waivers.
In 2015-16, the College Board debuted a new PSAT8/9, for 8th and 9th graders, and a redesigned PSAT, which is typically taken by 10th graders. The PSAT 10 was new last year, too; It’s another version of the test that 10th graders can take. Company officials said they aimed to create a series of assessments that offer feedback to students on their journey toward college readiness, starting earlier than ever. But Coleman said that feedback alone isn’t sufficient to justify the tests.
“America is sick of tests but hungry for more opportunity,” Coleman said on the media call. “There is no room for more assessments that aren’t connected to more opportunity.”
The College Board has won key battles in the statewide-contract war, nabbing some states, like Illinois, that had long given the ACT. Some states on the map above require all juniors to take the SAT, while others, such as Idaho, have statewide contracts that cover the cost for students, and give students the option of taking either the SAT or ACT. Five of the states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, and New Hampshire) use the SAT for federal accountability. (See EdWeek’s 50-state list of what tests states used last year and how they used them, for more information.)
The statewide contracts represent opportunity for the College Board, as well, of course. Michigan’s three-year contract is worth $17.1 million, Illinois’ two-year deal is worth $12.9 million, and Colorado’s five-year contract could fetch up to $12.4 million. Idaho’s will bring in about $1.2 million this year, and New Hampshire’s $613,000.
Judging by the participation data the College Board released, the statewide contracts are paying off in PSAT participation. (For SAT participation data, see my companion blog post here.)
- 885,000 students took the PSAT 8/9
- 247,000 students took the PSAT 10
- 4 million students took the PSAT, up from 3.8 million in 2014-15
The College Board’s opportunity mechanisms appear to be reaching more students. Here are some numbers the company released to back up that assertion:
- 7 percent to 8 percent more middle school students were identified by their PSAT scores as having “AP potential”
- 32 percent of the students who won $40,000-per-year college scholarships from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation were discovered through their PSAT scores. (The PSAT has also long been used to identify students for the National Merit scholarships.)
- 1.7 million students have used the free SAT-preparation course, offered through Khan Academy, which debuted in June 2015.
- Nearly 60 percent of the students who took the new SAT and used some form of test preparation reported on College Board questionnaires that they’d used its new free test-prep. Nineteen percent said they’d paid for test prep, a 10 percent drop from the previous year.
- 435,842 low-income students in the class of 2016 received college-application-fee waivers from the College Board, up from 428,013 in the class of 2015.
“This is really what this is all about,” Schmeiser said on the press call. “This is what students deserve.”
For more stories about the College Board’s push for statewide SAT contracts, see:
State Testing: An Interactive Breakdown of State’s 2015-16 Plans (specifies which states require SAT or ACT)
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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.