Having trouble staying in step with Colorado’s ACT-SAT-ACT shuffle? Not sure even Fred and Ginger could keep up.

In this guest post, Jim Furman—a local blogger who teaches high school in Denver and is currently on a one-year leave to be a stay-at-home dad—helps us get our feet under us.

By Jim Furman

Someone may have written a history of the of SAT vs. ACT battle. They may have made comparisons to Coke vs. Pepsi or Target vs. Wal-Mart. I haven’t followed the competition too closely. I do know that in the most recent round in Colorado, SAT got the win. I saw a picture of the proposals submitted to the state of Colorado by each testing company, and judging by the heft of the binders, it looked like quite a battle.

I know that many hours and lots of thought went into these proposals and the decision. As a teacher and parent, I paid less attention to the details of the proposals (though I did notice and am glad we went the cheaper route) and focused more on a few specific issues:


Because these tests serve as college entrance exams, I support Colorado’s practice of giving one to all students and paying for it. I believe in the access this practice provides and the college-going atmosphere that it can create. Colorado has been doing this for a while now (with the ACT). From this perspective, changing which test is free doesn’t really matter to me. Unless universities begin rejecting one of the tests in large numbers, either the ACT or SAT can serve this purpose.

Quality and Alignment

Because these tests also serve as measures of performance intended to be used for the purpose of accountability, it is essential that the state use the tests that are most-aligned to state standards and the state’s broader assessment system. Based on what I know about the tests and what I’ve read about the decision-making process, Colorado is making the right long-term decision in switching to the SAT. I have faith in the selection committee’s process and their clear sense that SAT is better for the students of Colorado because they deemed it to be of higher quality and more directly aligned with the new standards.

Like most people my age, I still mainly think of the SAT test as an entrance exam that was only taken by some students. Even fewer people I knew took the PSAT. And where I lived, hardly anyone took the ACT at the time. Given that this has changed, I’m all for this move to the SAT. I am also glad the state realized that announcing in December that the transition would occur immediately wasn’t the wisest.

Transitioning is the right long-term decision and delaying the transition until next year is the right short-term decision. I think juniors across the state were especially glad to hear about the delay yesterday.

Undoubtedly, Colorado teachers are suffering from a bit of test-shuffling fatigue and anxiety (in this case especially in 10th and 11th grade). These teachers had to move from CSAP to TCAP to PARCC/CMAS to ACT/Explore and now to SAT/PSAT. (I probably got at least one of those acronyms wrong or left something out.)

Let’s be honest, it is sometimes hard to keep it straight, and I feel for teachers, students, and testing coordinators.

That said, this move is the right one. I just hope that we can settle in a bit now. We’ve got good standards; we know what tests we will use to assess them. Let’s hold steady for a while and see how this goes.