Worried about Michigan’s switch to the SAT? Six reasons to calm down

This year’s crop of Michigan high school juniors will be the first to take the SAT college admission standardized test instead of the ACT. The switch, announced in January, lowered costs for the state, but raised the blood pressure of families and school officials, who worried the switch could affect test scores and, because those scores are used as a factor in admissions to most colleges, affect college enrollment.

Bridge spoke with a variety of test prep and college admission experts, who said the impact may be less than feared, especially for students who do their homework.

Is the ACT prep Michigan students have completed worthless now?

Worth less, perhaps, but definitely not worthless.

Most Michigan schools gave students the ACT-based standardized tests EXPLORE and PLAN in grades leading up to the 11th grade to help acquaint students with the ACT. That test prep won’t be as helpful on the SAT.

But the SAT is being redesigned for 2016, and is expected to more closely resemble the ACT than in the past, said Tim Parros, founder of Parros College Planning in Ann Arbor. That could make that ACT prep more helpful on the new SAT than on the old SAT.

Will Michigan students perform worse on the 2016 SAT than they would have on the ACT because they aren’t as familiar with it?

Maybe, but that won’t hurt them as much as you think. Here’s why:

The vast majority of college-going Michigan students attend colleges in Michigan. Admission officers at those universities “are sensitive to the switch-over to the SAT,” said Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network a nonprofit organization focused on preparing students for college, particularly low-income and first-generation college students and students of color. “They fully expect the scores to go down, and are planning to adjust their admissions criteria because of that.”

One admissions officer at a Michigan public university told Johnson that, at least in the short-term, SAT scores would be de-emphasized in the admissions process and more emphasis put on high school grades.

But what if I want to go to college outside of Michigan? Will I be at a disadvantage compared with students from elsewhere accustomed to the SAT?

Patrick O’Connor, associate dean of college counseling at Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills and past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, says the 2016 redesign of the SAT nationally should decrease that disadvantage.

“Not only are we switching to the SAT, but the SAT itself is changing,” O’Connor said. “The good news is that colleges around the country are not only concerned about what Michigan scores will look like, but how everyone is going to look like.

“If you’re going to switch, this is a good year to do it,” O’Connor said. “I would imagine colleges will be leaning more heavily on grades and other factors” until they can assess how the new SAT is working.

If the SAT given in March is new, is there any way to prepare for it?

Information on the new test, which will be given for the first time in March, can be found here.

Free sample tests are available online through a partnership between the College Board (the creator of the SAT) and Khan Academy. After you take a sample test, Kahn Academy will make suggestions for areas where you can study to improve your score. That’s also free and online.

Johnson and O’Connor encourage students to take the sample tests. “It’s really interactive and really fun,” Johnson said. “It’s totally free and really rivals the quality of (fee-based) test programs.”

I still think I’d do better on the ACT.

You can still take the ACT. In fact, it’s encouraged.

In addition to the SAT that all juniors will be required to take in March (free, at their schools), College planner Parros recommends students also take the ACT. “If it were my son, I’d advise him to take the ACT until the bugs are worked out of the SAT,” Parros said. “I’d hate to send someone in blind.”

Students have to be proactive if they want to take the ACT. They need to sign up online to take the test, which is given on national test dates several times during the year, beginning in September. They’ll have to pay for it ($56.50 to take the test with the writing segment) or apply for a fee waiver.

In addition to the sample tests on Khan Academy, what else can I do to prepare for the new SAT?

The PSAT (a shorter version of the SAT) is given to juniors in the fall. It offers students a preview of the SAT under real test-taking conditions (In addition, students must take the PSAT if they want to be considered for a National Merit Scholarship).

The PSAT is given at most Michigan high schools, but often is only given to students who sign up for it. There is a fee for the test, but low- and moderate-income students can qualify to get the test for free. It’s typically up to the student to apply for a fee waiver, generally through the student’s high school.

Students should ask their advisors about the PSAT, O’Connor said.

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Thu, 07/16/2015 - 10:17am
There is very little, if any, justification for requiring the SAT or ACT other than political donations from the test makers. The largest study of students at colleges that do not require SAT or ACT scores has found that there is "virtually no difference" in the academic performance (measured in grades or graduation rates) of those who do and don't submit scores. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/02/19/study-finds-little-differ... And, analyzed student and alumni records from 123,000 students in 33 colleges where SAT or ACT scores are optional for admission. The results found that a student’s performance in college closely mirrored their performance in high school: Students with strong grade point averages in high school maintained similar GPAs in college, regardless of how well or poorly they scored on college entrance exams. Likewise, students with lower GPAs – even those with high SAT or ACT scores – had lower GPAs in college and graduated at lower rates. http://edsource.org/2014/high-school-grades-are-a-better-predictor-of-co...
Thu, 07/16/2015 - 11:48am
Thank you, Jim, for citing these excellent sources. Writing is way too important and way too complex to be assessed by a sample written in less than an hour, with no prior research, no opportunity for delving into the subject, and no audience other than a part-time scorer with a BA in whatever subject paid $12/hour. Writing tests should be eliminated entirely and replaced with high-quality, long-term, sustained professional development for teachers who can then accurately assess a student's ability. These teachers can assess other teachers' students anonymously online, and then apply all their knowledge of writing standards to their teaching practice. Cheaper, faster, and far, far better.
Chuck Fellows
Thu, 07/16/2015 - 2:16pm
Thank you!
Chuck Fellows
Thu, 07/16/2015 - 2:17pm
Thank you!
Sue Martens
Thu, 07/16/2015 - 11:59am
I am a college English instructor and also tutor students in ACT prep. This new direction is not helpful for students. Parents and students should know that colleges will continue to accept either the ACT or SAT, and many (including me) encourage students to continue to take the ACT. It's a better, more comprehensive test of a student's ability to do college-level work. It covers more college-level skills than the SAT vocabulary and math: English (sentence structure and clarity, analysis), math, reading (fiction as well as nonfiction, testing for comprehension skills and critical thinking), and science reasoning (including a fair amount of reading, analyzing charts/graphs, and critical thinking). Did the Legislature get a deal on pricing for the SAT?
Thu, 07/16/2015 - 1:09pm
Sue, I encourage you to check out the new design of the SAT before you conclude that the ACT is a much better assessment. You cannot compare the old SAT to the new design which is designed to measure a much broader set of skills. But yes, the bid from SAT was much less than ACT, so you are correct that money played a role!
Fri, 07/17/2015 - 9:30am
Ron French, Brandy Johnson and readers need to know that there is additional test prep resources for the SAT and other college entrance exams available at no cost to *all* Michigan residents in the Michigan eLibrary, http://mel.org. A direct link to the college prep. resources which include actual practice tests, courses and ebooks can be found in MeL's Teens Gateway, http://teens.mel.org in the College Bound section from the LearningExpress Library resource. College test prep. found in MeL along with the College Board's Khan Academy makes a great package for Michigan students preparing for the SAT and other exams. Deb Biggs Thomas, Michigan eLibrary Coordinator at the Library of Michigan Lansing
Jeff Salisbury
Sat, 09/05/2015 - 8:53pm
FOLLOW THE MONEY... What a wicked web... Michigan College Access Network...their stated goal? "60% college attainment by 2025" --- MCAN is funded by the Lumina Foundation... which has "invested assets" in excess of $1 billion," making Lumina among the nation’s top 40 private US foundations.... and with ties to ALEC.... and Lumina is funded by SALLIE MAE (SLM Corporation), the largest education finance company in the U.S. with over $21 billion in student and parent loans... dwarfing the next three Citibank, Wachovia and Wells Fargo (combined) with about $5 billion EACH. Sallie Mae is the parent company of Nellie Mae, which also funds student loans. Just to give you an idea how profitable the student loan busienss is, in 2006, Sallie Mae revenue was $9.1 billion with profits of $1.1 billion. No, parents and students... this is not about test scores - not at all - it's about "college for all" - "60% college attainment by 2025" - and more students in college means more tuition dollars into the coffers of Michigan colleges and universities who do nothing but raise tuition year after year, which means more student loans means more interest and more profits for SALLIE MAE and NELLIE MAE and Citibank, Wachovia and Wells Fargo and more.
Jeff Salisbury
Sat, 09/05/2015 - 9:04pm
A July 2012 report, Private Student Loans, released jointly by the U.S. Department of Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFIB), found that private loans account for more than $150 billion dollars of the massive 1 trillion dollars in outstanding student debt. This is the first government report on private student loans. Student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt as the number one source of unsecured debt in the country. Key Findings [3] American borrowers currently owe more than $150 billion in private student loans More than $8 billion in private loans are in default In 2009, the unemployment for private student loan borrowers who started school in the 2003-2004 academic year was 16%. Ten percent of recent graduates of four-year colleges have monthly payments for all education loans in excess of 25% of their income Fueled by investor appetite for asset-backed securities, the private student loan market grew from less than 5 billion in 2001 to over 20 billion in 2008 to less than 6 billion in 2011 Banks between 2005 – 2007 were marketing loans directly to students, reducing the involvement of the schools in the process and reducing the certification of need from the school. Some students who had not reached their limit on federal loans took out private loans simply because they did not understand the process More than 90 percent of the dollar amount of private students loans originated in 2011 were co-signed Political contributions Sallie Mae gave $572,000 to federal candidates in the 2006 election through its political action committee - 52% to Democrats and 48% to Republicans. [4] Lobbying Sallie Mae (SLM Corporation) spent $2,758,700 for lobbying in the first half of 2007. Some of the lobbying firms used were Clark & Weinstock, Patton Boggs, Van Scoyoc Associates, Inc., and the individual Richard Hohlt. [5] http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Sallie_Mae
Jeff Salisbury
Sun, 09/06/2015 - 6:46pm
Parents, hear this and hear this well: Stop worrying about funding your kids' college education. You need to fund your own retirement. Pay off your house and shed all long term debt. Contribute to your tax-deferred retirement savings plan. Then give your adult kids the best gift ever: Move yourselves into a life care CCRC as soon as your age permits you to do so. Your paid-off house will fund the entrance fee; your SS and retirement savings should handle the monthly costs, which include almost everything you need to live. Sadly, most parents will not listen to this advice but they should. Sadder still, their adult kids will regret it, when they become full time caregivers for aged parents, have to take away car keys, argue about health care power of attorney, squabble over selling the house and disposing of a lifetime of your stuff. "But I'm different, I won't have these problems." Except that you're not different and you will absolutely create these problems--because as you age, the more you'll cling to familiar things, the more you'll just want to stay in your little safe sclerotic zones. So while your kids are in high school. tell them to crack the books, get grants and scholarships and part time jobs and pay their own way through college if they want college. Go fund your retirement, and your kids will thank you when they're parents themselves.