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State Board of Education waives college entrance exam admissions requirement for 2021-22 year

State Board of Education waives college entrance exam admissions requirement for 2021-22 year

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Testing Out the Debate on Tests

Keion Peterson pulls up the ACT website in March 2015 at Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls.

BOISE — The State Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to waive a college entrance exam as an admissions requirement for Idaho’s colleges and universities for 2021-22.

On June 10, State Board waived the college entrance exam requirement for 2020-21. But officials said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has prevented many of this fall’s high school seniors from taking a college entrance exam, such as the SAT or ACT.

This spring, the state canceled SAT Day, which allows all high school juniors to take the test on the state’s dime.

College and university officials are already considering and recruiting students for 2021-22 and need to be able to make admissions decisions clearly and accurately, State Board Chief Academic Officer TJ Bliss said.

Moments later, the State Board also voted unanimously to modify Idaho’s Direct Admissions criteria for 2021-22. The criteria will now be based on GPA from a high school student’s fifth semester (typically the fall of their junior year) and won’t include a college entrance exam score. The State Board set the minimum GPA requirement at 2.8 — down from 3.0.

The Direct Admissions program is part of Idaho’s effort to encourage students to pursue higher education. Under the program, students who meet the minimum criteria automatically receive a letter from the state telling them they have been accepted to Idaho colleges or universities.

Both motions passed quickly and unanimously and enjoyed support from college and university presidents.

“What I don’t want to see are students who had to overcome hurdles, through no fault of their own, lacking access to higher education,” Boise State University President Marlene Tromp said.

State Board staffers researched GPA data and did not find a big difference in students’ academic persistence, whether students had a 3.0 or 2.8 GPA, Executive Director Matt Freeman said.

“We’re still capturing students who are succeeding,” Freeman said.

Although both new changes only affect the 2021-22 school year, the board is likely to have a much larger discussion in the future about the role of college entrance exams.

Under Idaho law, a college entrance exam is a high school graduation requirement.

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