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Cortez juniors prepare for SAT exam this year

State mandates switch from ACT
Students gather between classes at Montezuma-Cortez High School.

Colorado high school juniors will take the SAT instead of the ACT as their college entrance exam for the first time this year.

A committee of school and district representatives from across the state chose the SAT because it was better aligned to state academic standards, according to a March 13 news release from Colorado Department of Education. The committee also favored the variety of free SAT preparation resources that students can use.

“The best preparation for the SAT is quality classroom instruction aligned to the standards,” CDE Commissioner Katy Anthes said in the release. “The great thing about the SAT is Colorado juniors and their families can take advantage of free opportunities to practice for the college entrance exam so they can do their very best.”

Legislation passed in 2015 that required the state to find a new exam for high school sophomores and juniors, the release states. This year’s juniors took the PSAT last year, which replaced the state’s previous test.

Montezuma-Cortez High School Principal Jason Wayman said students have been working through test study guides and practicing in classrooms.

He said students value college entrance exams, such as the SAT and ACT, more than state assessment tests.

“The SAT has been around for a long time,” he said. “It has a lot of validity in saying if kids are ready or not.”

With about three hours and 15 minutes of testing time, the SAT takes about 20 minutes longer than the ACT, Wayman said.

Unlike the ACT, the SAT has no science section. It contains reading, math and writing, Wayman said.

In previous years, students were asked to take the ACT science test as well as the state’s science assessment test. This year, that double-testing won’t happen, Wayman said.

He expects a smooth transition to the SAT for this first year because it’s about the same length as the ACT, and the process is similar.

Since English and math are such broad subjects, Wayman said teachers have tried to narrow down to SAT focus areas.

“We have to make sure we align what we’re teaching our students,” he said.

Mancos Schools Superintendent Brian Hanson said he didn’t anticipate problems with the switch. Students value college entrance exams and they try hard on them, regardless of whether it’s the ACT or SAT, Hanson said.

“They’re both great tests that give students what they need,” he said.

Almost all Mancos students opt out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness For College and Careers, or PARCC, state assessment test, Hanson said. More students take college entrance exams, though, he said.

In Cortez, it’s a crucial year for state assessment testing as the district is facing pressure from the state to improve student performance.

District officials say they expect almost all students to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness For College and Careers (PARCC) tests this month after low participation in the past few years.

Wayman said educators have asked that everyone take the tests and have tried to emphasize that they need good scores.

“We’re trying to emphasize how important this is,” he said. “It’s how the state gives us a grade.”

The PARCC tests require more preparation and lots of student support, Wayman said. Teachers in the English and history departments have been instructing students on how to support their claims with evidence in essays.

Wayman said he’s confident that the district will get good results from its students on the tests this year.

“If they give it their best effort, we have a good chance to do well,” he said. “We don’t deserve the rating we’ve been given.”


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