The Idaho State Board of Education will explore allowing the Idaho Standards Achievement Test or “ISAT” to stand in for tests like the ACT and SAT, or scrap the college entrance exam requirement for high school graduates completely.

In its regular meeting Wednesday, the SBOE approved a slate of recommendations from its Accountability Oversight Committee, which included the proposal to incorporate the ISAT into the state’s direct admissions program for higher education. This was paired with the recommendation that the ISAT be administered to students in the 11th grade, and that those scores could ultimately be used in place of a college entrance exam.

However, if the state’s higher education institutions do not favor this move, the committee recommended eliminating college entrance exams from state requirements for earning a diploma altogether.

“Although requiring all high school students to take a college entrance examination as part of earning a high school diploma was a laudable effort to help more Idaho (students) matriculate, it is now time to explore a more inclusive approach to helping us prepare for their post secondary pursuits,” Accountability Oversight Committee Chairman Roger Stewart said. “Additionally, in reviewing the data, we do not believe that the statewide college entrance exam requirement has resulted in a substantial increase in Idaho’s go-on rate.”

The committee also recommended the SBOE investigate the possibility of shifting to a “multi-assessment” option for graduating high schoolers that would allow them to choose which assessment they take based on what best aligns with their high school career and future goals.

While student ISAT scores are useful in gauging a district’s adherence to state and federal learning standards and tests like the SAT have established a standard for college entrance exams, Stewart said these tests may not be ideal for all students when determining what comes after high school.

“High school students are diverse in their post-secondary interests and the pathways they pursue,” Stewart said. “Thus we recommend the high school assessment for state and federal accountability measure each student’s preparedness to pursue their preferred post-secondary pathway.”

Additionally, the Accountability Oversight Committee recommended 11th graders only be required to take a single statewide assessment and that the board support efforts to provide financial support to students and families for college and career exams.

Board members noted the plan hinges on “a lot of contingencies” and the adoption of the committee’s recommendations is merely a first step in a lengthy process. Many noted that because the state’s K-12 academic standards are currently under review, the plan may have to be adjusted to account for any changes.

SBOE President Debbie Critchfield said there is still much to do and adjustments are expected.

“It is … a recommendation, other points of this will have to be developed and the there’s things that will be subject to change, so this doesn’t lock us into anything,” Critchfield said. “I think what it does is it establishes a trajectory towards approaching our assessment implementation and practice in a different way.”

The board voted 7 to 1 in favor of adopting the recommendation package. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra was the sole dissenting vote on the measure but declined to expound on her reasons when invited to.

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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