SATs trigger calendar change

By Pat Sunderland

The SAT, the state's college entrance exam, will be administered for free in every school April 11 -- right in the middle of Delta County's spring break. That's pushing the district's 11th graders into the makeup date on Tuesday, April 25.

Although they can opt to take the SAT (or the ACT) on their own, there's a charge and students would likely have to drive to another venue.

The same scenario is shaping up for 10th graders taking the PSAT 10, which has replaced the state's Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) tests for 10th grade students in English language arts and math.

To avoid a similar scenario in 2017-18, the school board last week approved a calendar modification that moves the April break to the third week of the month -- April 16-20, 2018.

Juniors across the state are taking the SAT for the first time this spring. According to the Colorado Department of Education, the switch to SAT from the ACT occurred after legislation passed in 2015 that required the state to seek competitive bids for a new 10th grade exam and aligned 11th grade college entrance exam.

This year's 11th graders had the opportunity to get ready for the SAT last year when they took the PSAT 10 exam.

Through a partnership between the College Board, which develops the SAT suite of assessments, and the Khan Academy, students could choose to receive free, personalized SAT study plans tailored to the strengths and weaknesses identified from their PSAT 10 results.

In addition, teachers and principals are doing work within each high school to make sure students are ready for the SATs.

Kurt Clay, assistant superintendent for Delta County Joint School District #50, said representatives from the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Education Initiative were brought in for staff in-service days in

October. They reviewed the similarities and the differences between the two tests, and offered tips for classroom preparation.

"Overall, they're pretty similar," Clay said. "I would say the SAT is a little more thought-provoking. They're not looking for fact-driven answers that are black and white. I would also say the SAT aligns better with the state standards."

The results are meaningful for both the student and the school district. Accepted across the nation and by every public college in the state, the SAT measures what students are learning in high school and what they need to know to succeed in college and their careers.