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Idaho High Schoolers Might Skip The SAT If They Stay In-State For College

A blurred photo of a girl in movement. Behind her in focus is a sign that reads "SAT testing" and an arrow pointing to the right -- the direction the girl is headed.
This March 12, 2005, file photo shows a student leaving after taking the SAT at Upper Arlington High School in Upper Arlington, Ohio.

State colleges and universities in Idaho may no longer require applicants to take a college entrance exam, like the SAT or ACT.

The state board of education Wednesday unanimously approved that policy change.

Board President Debbie Critchfield said the shift allows individual institutions to decide if potential students should take entrance exams.

"They are not compelled by our board through policy to do that," she said, "but again, those are the minimum requirements. They may adapt their requirements to suit what they see their environment is.”

Last year, Idaho State Board of Education members gave these colleges and universities a choice. They no longer required students to take tests like the SAT or the ACT as a condition of admission, but each school could make their own policy.

The change is a response to both challenges presented by the pandemic, and long-term data showing GPA is a better predictor of success in college than standardized test scores.

Idaho State University Interim Provost Karen Appleby said the school no longer requires incoming students to take one of these tests.

The considerations the university used in making its decision, Appleby said, include “some historical concerns about whether tests actually do what they’re intended to do.”

“The most significant predictor of success, especially here at ISU, is actually first-semester GPA and not test scores,” she said.

Appleby said other criteria, like a student’s high school transcript, give admissions officers a better gauge as to whether they will do well in college.

A recent analysis of Chicago high schoolers founda student’s GPA to be five times more accurate at predicting whether they will graduate from college than their ACT score.

Idaho State University also wanted to relieve students of the “burden” of potentially paying for the test, Appleby said.

In addition to admissions, entrance exams have also been used in determining financial aid awards and course placement.

She said ISU will instead use a mix of advanced placement test scores or a combination of other tests to decide the math and English classes in which a student will be placed.

Opponents have argued tests like the ACT or SAT also favor wealthier students whose families can pay for tutoring.

Idaho’s three other four-year institutions – Boise State University, Lewis-Clark State College and University of Idaho – are still considering whether they’ll join ISU in eliminating the college entrance exam as an admission requirement for public school students.

They had previously done so during the pandemic.

Mike Sharp, director of media relations at Boise State, said in an emailed statement that the university wants to ensure student success. To do that, Sharp said the school could consider essays, local placement tests and letters of reference to help guide admissions decisions.

“Without test scores, we will have to ensure that students, families, and counselors are aware of the value of those supplemental materials,” he wrote.

Later this year, The State Board will consider removing the tests from high school graduation requirements, but that change would also need legislative approval.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!
Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.