Two years after state change, DHS is getting used to the SAT

Jessica Apple, Staff Reporter

DHS students face new choices this spring as the school enters its second year following the Illinois state mandate that all high school juniors take the recently redesigned SAT. DHS students and administrators alike are reacting positively to the change from the decades-old college entrance exam and its offering to all juniors attending public schools at no charge.

Assistant principal Ken Williams oversees testing at DHS. “I think it is good news… now that every junior has to take the SAT and most also take the ACT, nearly every student has the ability to see which test performance is best for them,” Mr. Williams said.

Around 143,000 Illinois public high school students are expected to take the SAT this year, according to the Chicago Tribune. Prior to the change, less than 6,000 students took the SAT in 2016. With nearly 2400 percent growth in two years, the shift is reaching full implementation statewide.

Here’s a glimpse at what’s new and why the SAT may now be more appealing to Illinois public schools: The new SAT is designed to better address college readiness skills and overall testing experience, and more accurately adheres to high school standards than the old version. Also, the essay portion is optional, and there is now no penalty for guessing on a question versus leaving the answer blank.

Data collected in 2017 reveals that thousands of students statewide are struggling even as the state uses standards to encourage higher student achievement. In fact, about two-thirds of Illinois public high schools posted below-average or lower scores on the SAT last spring, according to the Chicago Tribune.

When choosing which test is best for students, SIMON Test Prep co-founder and vice president Glenn Simon offers some advice. He has worked in education for 13 years, this being his fifth year preparing students to take the SAT and ACT.

“The most important thing to consider is that every college in the country accepts both the SAT and the ACT without a preference. So, in terms of applying to college, there really is no effect on students at all,” Simon says.

The key to choosing which test is best for someone, according to Simon, is considering individual strength. Since the SAT has no science section and the ACT is less algebra-focused, each exam offers different wants for students to display their knowledge.

Simon recognizes that the current preference in Deerfield is for the ACT, because the ACT has been a familiar test at DHS for decades. Even though it may currently seem like the ACT is the more popular choice, there are differing views among students as the SAT becomes more popular.

For example, DHS senior Taryn Sparacino highly prefers the SAT. “The SAT shows more of what a student is made of, and it’s a better evaluator,” Sparacino says.

However, DHS senior Hannah Cohen feels differently. She says, “I like the ACT better because that’s what I studied for… The ACT is what I was going to take because that’s how it was before my junior year. That’s what everyone took. That was when the transition was just starting, so it wasn’t big enough for me to take the SAT.” She admits, “I think a lot of people like the content of the ACT better but the timing of the SAT better; I think [the SAT] gives more time per question than the ACT.” (True: the SAT allows 1 minute and 10 seconds per question while the ACT allows 50.)

Only time will tell, but students and administrators alike think this transition will be a positive change in the long run. Before the SAT was required and the ACT was more widely popular, some students weren’t exposed to the SAT. Now that this test is mandated, however, increased exposure means students can better select which assessment is better for them.