SAT Day makes a comeback — at least for the time being

It’s a sign that testing is back.

For now, anyway.

On April 13, 22,459 students will take the SAT — at state expense and during their normal day in high school. Another 600 students have signed up for an SAT makeup day.

Add it all up, and that means 97 percent of the state’s high school juniors will take advantage of Idaho’s “SAT Day.” But there’s no guarantee that these students will actually need the SAT under their belt — either to graduate from high school, or to get into the college of their choice.

Since 2012, “SAT Day” has allowed tens of thousands of Idaho high school juniors to take the college entrance exam free of charge. The goal: Encourage more high school students to consider continuing their education after graduation, by eliminating one obstacle to college. At a taxpayer cost of about $1 million a year, SAT Day is part of a multimillion-dollar effort to improve the state’s stubbornly low college go-on rates.

SAT Day went by the wayside last spring, as Idaho high schools closed buildings at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. The state rescheduled SAT Day for the fall, and some 22,000 high school seniors took the state up on the offer.

Beyond April 13, however, SAT Day faces an uncertain future.

First off, it’s unclear whether the state will continue to require high school students to take a college-entrance exam. For thousands of Idaho high school students — even students who weren’t planning on college — SAT Day served one practical function: It provided a convenient and free way to take a placement exam and check off a graduation requirement.

During the pandemic, the State Board of Education has waived this requirement for the past two years, and the waiver covers the Class of 2021.

The graduation requirement is intact for the Class of 2022, for the juniors who will take the SAT in April. But a State Board of Education committee has recommended getting rid of this graduation requirement permanently, State Board spokesman Mike Keckler said Wednesday. If the State Board goes along with this recommendation — a decision is expected in November — the board would ask the 2022 Legislature to pass a rule ditching the graduation requirement.

Last summer, the State Board also gave state colleges and universities the option of waiving its entrance exam requirements, a one-year pandemic response.

But as some colleges around the country are dropping entrance exam requirements — due to questions about whether the tests are biased in favor of wealthier students — the State Board is taking a longer look at the tests as well.

“Those issues are being discussed at all levels, across the country and here in Idaho,” Keckler 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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