My turn: Students need the right tests, not more tests

By Ruth Pérez, Special to CALmatters

For too many California families, the college application process is expensive and hard to navigate. Fortunately, there’s a solution that would propel more students to be eligible for college admissions.

Giving local school districts the power to choose how students are tested in grade 11 would improve access to college for students of every zip code, ability, and language proficiency level.

Assembly Bill 1951 by Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, a Long Beach Democrat, would allow school districts to offer college admissions tests such as the SAT or ACT at school at no cost to students, instead of the existing state assessment that has no relevance to 11th graders who aspire to a postsecondary education.

I urge Gov. Jerry Brown to sign it into law.

Knowing how critical college admissions tests are for students’ futures, we must invest now. That includes providing the SAT or ACT during the school day for free.

We at the Paramount Unified School District participate in SAT School Day, offering the SAT in school to all of our juniors. Because our students participate in SAT School Day, they can be more readily connected to scholarships, college application fee waivers, and free, personalized test practice.

The ability for schools to offer the SAT or ACT during the school day gives students the choice to apply to college and provides teachers and counselors with data to inform how to best support our students as they pursue higher education.

Research shows that offering a college admissions test during the school day raises students’ expectations and propels more high school students, including low-income students, toward college. O’Donnell’s bill, the Pathways to College Act, would help make college admissions testing and resources available to students of all means, no matter where they’re from or how much their parents make.

Importantly, the Pathways to College Act requires the English learners be provided with appropriate accommodations free of charge, including access to testing instructions in their primary language, bilingual glossaries and extended testing time, for free.

The legislation also would ensure that students have appropriate accommodations or an alternate test for free. We can ensure students take college admissions tests in environments they’re comfortable in, with the accommodations their instructors are intimately familiar with.

Giving school districts the opportunity to offer college admissions testing for free to all students, including those who require accommodations, means that educators can help as many students as possible on the way to consider college as an option.

Our students need more than a test score. They need a test that opens the door to college. It’s about time we offer college admissions testing in school for free.

Ruth Pérez is Paramount Unified School District superintendent, [email protected] She wrote this commentary for CALmatters.

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