Ybarra: State discussing tweaks to ‘SAT Day’


State superintendent Sherri Ybarra wants the state to keep paying for students to take college-entrance exams.

But testing day might look different in the future.

Last week, in an interview with Idaho Education News’ Clark Corbin and Andrew Reed, Ybarra said she might tweak the statewide “SAT Day” that has been in place since 2012. The state might opt to offer the ACT instead; in a survey, 90 percent of district superintendents said they preferred the ACT to the SAT.

“We’re having those conversations right now surrounding SAT scores and is this a good fit for Idaho?” Ybarra said. “But again, that’s just the conversation. There’s been no decisions made.”

On April 15, nearly 17,000 high-school juniors took part in the most recent “SAT Day;” the state covered the cost of taking the college entrance exam. The average score dropped 10 points to 1,353 — well below the 1,550 score that is considered a benchmark for college readiness. The latest results prompted Ybarra to question the wisdom of having nearly every junior take the exam.

Some local administrators have also questioned the SAT Day policy. In Owyhee County’s Marsing High School, administrators paid about $1,000 to take the COMPASS assessment, a less rigorous college entrance exam. Fewer than half of Marsing’s juniors took the SAT in April — and the school’s average score improved by 141 points from 2014, when all juniors took the test.

The state requires all high school graduates to take a college-entrance exam. The SAT, ACT and COMPASS all satisfy the graduation requirement. But since the SAT has been offered for free, it has been by far the most popular test with students.

Idaho spends about $1.1 million to cover the cost of the SAT and other college-entrance exams. If Ybarra’s comments last week are any indication, that program is likely to continue — in some form or another.

“As far as having a college entrance exam day in Idaho that’s how you open doors for kids all over the state,” she said.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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