Achieve: Do not use SAT or ACT as state summative assessment

Achieve released a new brief warning against the use of ACT or SAT exams as the summative high school assessment for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. Achieve highlighted three reviews of these tests, looking at their alignment to states’ college- and career-ready academic standards and how using the tests for accountability would impact students, teachers, and high schools.

“The ACT and SAT are valuable tests that should continue to be used for higher education admissions, and as indicators of college readiness,” said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve. “However, their lack of alignment with states’ college- and career-ready standards means that they are not the assessments to use for accountability purposes. Schools should be held accountable for how well their students are mastering their state academic standards; only tests aligned with those standards can provide that information.”

There has been a significant movement in the past several years toward states opting to use college admissions tests, specifically the ACT or SAT, in place of a traditional, state-developed or consortia-developed summative assessment. In the 2017-18 school year, 14 states administered either the ACT or SAT as the statewide summative assessment for high school. Many districts are also requesting to use the admissions test in place of state tests.

Three recent independent studies from Achieve,  HumRRO, and Assessment Solutions Group, using different but complementary approaches, have examined the alignment of these tests with state academic standards as well as other important issues. Taken together, these studies reveal significant challenges for states in using the ACT or SAT to assess student achievement of state standards or as a significant factor in state accountability systems. Furthermore, the research is clear that summative assessments impact the content educators cover and the instructional materials that they use in their classrooms. The use of these assessments – which are often not aligned with state academic standards – will impact what is taught in high school classrooms.

Recommendations from the brief  include: 

  • States should not use the ACT or SAT as the statewide accountability measures for ELA and mathematics.
  • States should not allow districts to administer the ACT or SAT in lieu of the statewide summative assessment.
  • States that have adopted the ACT or SAT should ask those companies to augment their tests to improve alignment to send better signals to educators about instruction, and ACT and the College Board should respond affirmatively.
  • States that do not use the ACT or SAT as their statewide summative assessment should make sure that their current tests send meaningful signals about college and career readiness.

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