Michigan House nixes SAT essay and removes scores from transcripts
LANSING—Michigan high school juniors will get a reprieve from a high-stakes essay and would no longer have to worry about test-optional colleges seeing their SAT scores if they are low if two bills headed to the Senate become law.
The Michigan House voted Wednesday to nix the essay portion of the SAT and remove standardized test scores from public school transcripts. Both bills passed the House 104-1 and now head to the Senate.
Passage of the two bills follows a national shift away from standardized pre-college skills tests. More than 1,800 colleges no longer require SAT scores for admission. Removing scores from transcripts aligns with recommendations from the College Board, which creates and administers SATs and other standardized tests.
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The College Board eliminated the SAT essay from its tests last year, except in states including Michigan that still use it to assess writing skills. The legislation includes a provision allowing continued use until the state and federal education departments agree on an alternative assessment.
Currently, SAT scores automatically appear on Michigan students’ official transcript even if they’re applying to a college that doesn’t require the scores for admission. That puts Michigan students at a disadvantage when other students can choose whether to submit their scores, according to bill sponsor David Martin, a Republican from Davison.
Other supporters of the bills say a single timed essay never reflected students’ true academic abilities.
Wednesday’s nearly unanimous House vote exposes a sharp division between lawmakers and the Michigan Department of Education, which opposed both bills.
Removing SAT scores from transcripts also would help Michigan schools comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Including test scores on transcripts used to save families money because the College Board charged to send them to colleges separately. The current charge is $12 per report after the first four, which are free.
But more and more colleges aren’t requiring test scores and with good reason, said Bob Schaefer, executive director of FairTest, a nonprofit advocacy group that opposes misuse and overuse of standardized testing.
“Colleges and universities that have waived or eliminated test-score requirements typically find they get more applicants, they get better academically qualified applicants in terms of grades and course rigor, and they get more diversity,” he said.
The SAT is part of the Michigan Merit Exam given to high school juniors. The exam also includes the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) science and social studies assessments and WorkKeys, which tests job skills in applied math, graphic literacy and workplace documents. The Michigan House last year voted to eliminate the WorkKeys portion of the test, but the Senate has not taken up the bill.
State Rep. Cynthia Johnson was the only House member to oppose the bills.
“An indicator of progress in any culture is the percentage of people who can read and write,” the Detroit Democrat said after the vote. “It’s very sad that we are accepting to not encourage the practice of writing — at least that’s how I’m seeing this.”
Tracie Mauriello covers state education policy for Bridge Michigan and Chalkbeat Detroit. Reach her at email@example.com.
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