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New Hampshire makes SAT the statewide assessment for high school juniors

Last modified: 8/18/2015 12:21:38 AM
This year, when 11th-grade students in public schools sit down to take New Hampshire’s statewide assessment tests, they won’t be taking Smarter Balanced exams; they’ll be taking the SAT.

The New Hampshire Department of Education decided to switch to the SAT, in part to encourage more students to think about preparing for college.

The move to use the standardized achievement test for in-state assessment isn’t new, said education consultant Scott Marion, associate director for the Dover-based National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment Inc.

Six states already use the ACT to test 11th-graders, and Maine has used the SAT for nearly a decade.

School officials, teachers and students encouraged the department to make the move, said Heather Gage, director of the Division of Educational Improvement.

“We’ve heard from several of them that the SAT would have much greater meaning for students in their schools and maybe help students want to go to college,” Gage said, adding that there was “great support at the state level for that move.”

Traditionally, high school students preparing to go to college take the SAT in the spring of their junior year, and some take it again during the fall of their senior year. Students and families typically have to pay more than $50 to take the tests.

Under New Hampshire’s new plan, students in public schools will be able to take the test in January for free. That’s welcome news for students who were already planning to take the SAT for college prep, Gage said.

“Any time the student has the ability to practice” for the SAT is a good thing, she said.

College Board representatives praised the move and touted their redesigned SAT, which includes an optional essay, putting words in context and focusing the math section on problem solving and data analysis.

This year, the College Board is also starting a partnership with online instructional service the Khan Academy to offer students free SAT practice.

“Working together with New Hampshire leaders, we will ensure that more students, parents and educators across the state can benefit from the opportunities connected to our assessments,” said the board’s chief of assessment, Cyndie Schmeiser, in a statement.

Education officials at the state and local levels also hope the move will mean consolidating testing for high school juniors, who often find themselves taking many different assessment tests such as AP placement tests that year.

They hope students will also see the move as benefiting them.

“It’s tough for them to take things seriously if they don’t think it’s going to do anything for them,” Marion said.

As with any action, there can be pros and cons, and Marion said one perceived drawback to the plan is that the test is still not relevant for kids who know they are not going to college.

But a bigger criticism of the Smarter Balanced tests and the NECAP exams before that was they lacked incentive for students to do well.

Still, Marion said he sees a lot of support for the SAT being used in New Hampshire.

“In general, people feel like it’s a good outlet,” he said. “I do know in New Hampshire there was a loud cry from the superintendents for this to be done.”

Londonderry Superintendent Nate Greenberg was one of the people pushing for the SAT as the statewide assessment.

“We felt it had some significant, real-life benefits for our students,” he said, saying he hopes all students taking the SAT may spur some who wouldn’t otherwise seek out college to consider it more seriously.

“We think it holds major positive potential for us, and most of all for our students,” Greenberg said.

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen)


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