Good morning and Happy New Year!

  At this point, you may or may not have heard about the somewhat surprising and controversial decision by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to switch the mandatory ACT Test for Juniors with the SAT test starting in Spring 2016.  After I heard this on the news, a plethora of thoughts starting pulsing through my mind.  My guess is this same issue might be happening to you.  My goal is to highlight the initial reactions, the motive for the change as well as how you might be able to support your child in the best possible way through the Transition.

Reason for the change.

The only real reason for the change is money.  The State of Michigan is saving $15 million dollars over three years by switching.  It will cost Michigan $17 million to administer the SAT vs. $32 million for the ACT. MDE spokesperson Martin Ackley says the SAT will be a better test that will save the state money.  What is the SAT?  How does it compare to the ACT?

Some students plan to take both the ACT and SAT already, especially those students who plan to go East or West in their college pursuit.  For those that are not familiar with the SAT, here is what it entails. 

The SAT(previously Scholastic Aptitude Test - now no name) is a College-Entrance Exam that assesses knowledge in Mathematics, Reading and Writing.  It is developed, created and administered by the College Board, which is the same maker of all the Advanced Placement Tests (AP Tests) that students are already taking.  They are a credible and very influential company in the testing world.

Here is a link to the SAT website with some videos outlining some of basics of the SAT. http://sat.collegeboard.org/about-tests/sat

Here's the catch: The SAT is changing for 2016.  We don't know how yet.  Your school is still in the dark and will be until they see the Practice SAT (PSAT) Test next Fall.  More on this later.

Does this change the admission process for Colleges and Universities?

The short answer is no.  Here is the more thought out response:  Colleges and Universities have always accepted both the SAT and the ACT.  Many Universities in the Midwest have predominately said they only require the ACT results.  They all still accept the SAT as well.  Jim Cotter, director of admissions at Michigan State University said "It's a monumental change, to go from an ACT state to a SAT state is a monumental change, but that doesn't apply to how credentials are reviewed...We will continue to review credentials in the same way we always have and students will have a choice to submit their ACT or SAT scores."  I have a hunch if 110,000+ students every year have an SAT score to submit, Universities will become more likely to accept the SAT, allowing students to focus on only one of the tests, however, time will tell.  I personally think this is why the $17 million bid was so much lower by College Board.  It is a business move to change the behavior of the Universities in the Midwest to become more accepting of the SAT.

What does it mean for my child?

I will outline what this might look like for each student at each level.

Seniors:

If your child is a Senior...nothing will change.  Stay on course, this will not affect you.

Juniors:

You are probably on track to take the ACT with your school in March or if not, a spring April Test.  That's perfect.  Stay the course, take the ACT, apply to colleges your Senior year and all is well.

Sophomores:

You are in a tricky position.  You will be the first take the SAT at your school.  Take the PSAT next Fall.  Since there is a new SAT in 2016, the PSAT will be new in Fall 2015.  This will help you better understand what to expect in March at your local HS. Other than that, plan to take the ACT because Universities are unlikely to change what test they prefer.  In the end, preparing for the ACT like you normally would will give you two different test scores to give to colleges.  This may be of benefit to you considering one of them is free.  If you don't want to give colleges your SAT score, then don't!  Consider your situation in a positive way.  You will still plan for the ACT as you always have, however, you will get a free shot at the SAT.  If you score super high, use it to your advantage.  If you score low, don't. Makes sense right?

Freshman and below:

Let a year go by before you make any decisions on the test.  It is in your interest to start preparing for both tests, however, you school counselor should give you some guidance on this.  Don't worry about it right now. Focus on your GPA, your extra-curriculars, etc...

Summary:

In general, schools are going to be most affected by this change.  They are going to have to quickly adapt to the changes to prepare the students.  This will be a difficult task given that the test is changing.  The ACT was also used as a longitudinal assessment.  In other words, the ACT was used to assess student's achievements over time and compare the school's growth or decline in scores from year to year.  Staring in 2016, that longitudinal data will be obsolete.

Students are going to have a transition, however, if we look objectively at college admissions, nothing drastically is changing.  Students should just plan on taking both tests and can choose what results to use.  Parents can help in giving the students tools to succeed in both tests.  From a business standpoint, I am not sure how we will adapt as I have not had the time to fully digest, however, I foresee an SAT prep class along with an ACT prep class offered, or some kind of hybrid class preparing students for both tests.  Right now, the focus stays on ACT.

Here are a few news links that might be helpful and informative:

Bridge Michiganhttp://bridgemi.com/2015/01/what-michigans-switch-to-the-sat-means-for-high-school-students/

MLivehttp://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2015/01/switch_from_act_to_sat_monumen.html

Washington Posthttp://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/michigan-picks-sat-over-act-for-free-college-admission-testing/2015/01/07/e66d9f1c-9687-11e4-8005-1924ede3e54a_story.html

Michigan Radiohttp://michiganradio.org/post/more-mandatory-testing-days-michigans-11th-graders

http://michiganradio.org/post/michigan-switches-sat-over-act-starting-2016

As always, please feel free to contact me via email(troy@grandrapidstutors.com) or phone (616-481-8168) if you have any questions, thoughts or concerns.