Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Free ACTs, SATs Offered

Oklahoma public high school juniors can take ACT or SAT free under the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) program 

Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, announced Tuesday that Oklahoma public school districts will have the opportunity this year to choose whether their 11th-grade students can take the ACT or the SAT college-entrance exam free of charge.

This initiative is an extension of a 2015-2016 pilot program widely embraced across the state last spring, when all but two of Oklahoma’s 459 public high schools provided the ACT for juniors. As a result, 79 percent of 11th graders – or 35,477 of 45,071 students – took the test, compared to a little more than half who had taken the exam the year before.

Giving schools the opportunity to administer the free tests onsite and during the school day eliminates cost and transportation barriers for students who otherwise might never have had access to the college- and career-readiness exam. An ACT or SAT score allows a student to earn college credit at a reduced cost while still in high school through concurrent enrollment and is a requirement for acceptance into colleges and universities.

“Access to the ACT and SAT opens up an on-ramp to postsecondary education for all Oklahoma public school students, many of whom might not otherwise consider college to be a possibility,” said Hofmeister. “By easing the path from K-12 to college or CareerTech, we can help ensure that Oklahomans will be competitive in our rapidly changing, technology-driven global marketplace.”

Hofmeister said the assessment program shares the same goals as Launch Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin’s initiative to increase the number of Oklahomans with postsecondary degrees, certificates or credentials from 40 percent to 70 percent by the year 2025.

Participation in the program is optional this spring. The Oklahoma State Board of Education has recommended that a college- and career-readiness exam be a requirement for high school testing beginning in the 2017-2018 school year.

Pending approval by the Legislature and governor, the ACT and SAT tests replace end-of-instruction (EOI) exams that were repealed last year in legislation signed by Gov. Fallin.

The ACT/SAT program is free for schools and students and is funded through dollars already allocated for assessments through the OSDE, which estimates it will save $2.4 million annually by administering the ACT or SAT instead of the EOIs.

The OSDE is issuing a survey to districts in which they may select which test they will make available to their students this spring.

“Offering districts the choice of the ACT or SAT gives more control back to our communities,” Hofmeister said. “Districts are more likely to know the individual needs of their students and which tool will best serve their students.

Oklahoma students have traditionally chosen to take the ACT to fulfill the entrance requirements of colleges and universities. The number of Oklahoma high school graduates in 2016 who took the ACT was 32,854, or 82 percent. The number of Oklahoma high school graduates in 2016 who took the SAT was 1,503, or less than 4 percent.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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