Cristian Castillo ’17
Miss Colombia was crowned Miss Universe for four minutes before she was told it was a mistake and Miss Philippines was actually Miss Universe. The juniors in Illinois are Miss Colombia, the possible scholarships are the crown, and being stripped of what we’ve worked so hard for is Illinois’ switch to the SAT. Miss Colombia was in shock and looked helpless; that sums up how juniors in Illinois feel about the ACT to SAT switch announced earlier this week.
As a student at a Noble Charter School, I’ve taken some form of a practice ACT every four weeks or so for the past three years. Each morning, I’d wake up, groan because it was yet another practice test, and tell myself that all these practices would pay off in the spring of 2016 when I would earn a high enough ACT score to get into my dream college and earn a scholarship to make attendance financially viable for my family.
This is true for schools across Illinois that have been preparing their juniors for the ACT for the past three years. Very few Illinois students took the SAT compared to the ACT in the class of 2015: for every 26 students who took the ACT last year, only one took the SAT. Illinois students have invested time on ACT prep and are now at a huge disadvantage when it comes to the college admissions game. We expected to take the ACT and were aiming for scholarships and college admissions out of it; the last-minute switch to the SAT lowers our chances of doing just that since we simply aren’t as prepared for the different test. We expected to use strategies we’ve practiced for the ACT because we know the test so well; unfortunately the SAT is new to us, and we don’t know how to strategize to do as best as we can.
Low income students like me will be more affected by the switch than our higher-income peers. With the ACT as the state test, students were getting practice for free and the actual test was free. We’re now facing a test we have no experience with, and we can’t afford SAT tutors. If juniors want to take the ACT, we now have to pay $57 and schedule the test on our own. When low income students can’t afford that cost and aren’t sure how to go about obtaining the fee waiver, they will likely just settle for the state-mandated SAT, a test they will likely do poorly on compared to the ACT due to lack of experience. This, effectively, will cause students to have a lower chance of college acceptance. A handful of students in Illinois are lucky enough that their school, like mine, is working to offer a free ACT to its juniors in addition to the state-administered SAT, but that isn’t the case for most students.
I’m not saying that one test is better than the other; I’ve never taken the SAT, so I can’t make a fair comparison. I am saying Illinois should wait to make the switch with the class of 2020— current eighth graders. This will allow that class to have three years of SAT prep before the SAT in the spring of 2019. That’s fair.
Juniors don’t want to be Miss Colombia. We’ve worked hard for the ACT and an opportunity for scholarships, and now Steve Harvey— ISBE—is stripping us of that after such hard work.