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Idaho Board of Education backs making college entrance exams optional

The measure does not mean colleges will be barred from asking for SAT or ACT test scores - just that they can forgo that requirement if they choose.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho's State Board of Education on Wednesday advanced a bid to allow universities and colleges around the state to forgo entrance exams like the ACT and SAT.

The board's vote was unanimous.

Chief Academic Officer TJ Bliss noted in the meeting that other states around the country have already chosen to forgo such requirements. The national movement could put Idaho schools at a "competitive disadvantage" as students decide where to apply and ultimately enroll.

"There is a growing body of research suggesting that college entrance exam scores don't predict success, and that GPA and other factors are more important," he said. "Our institutions have recognized that."

ISBOE board member Debbie Critchfield stressed that the measure does not mean colleges will be barred from asking for test scores - just that they can forgo that requirement if they choose.

"Our action would not prevent institutions from having other qualifications and benchmarks, etc., or testing, for that matter," she said.

The vote also does not remove the graduation requirement for high school juniors to take a college entrance test.

Board members say individual schools that want to forgo mandating SAT or ACT scores will have the option of operating as test-optional - in which students can still submit scores in their application, and a high score might yield them a competitive advantage - or test-blind, in which admissions staff will not consider scores at all. 

Wednesday's board meeting also focused on the progress they've made with open educational resources-- which are low-cost or free resources that faculty can use to instruct their courses.  The board's goal is to make faculty aware of all the lower cost and open resources that are out there so they can design their courses with an eye toward affordability.

"In a survey we did, we had 471 of our faculty respond when we asked if they were using OER resources in their courses and they commented that there were 600 courses that they taught that 25,000 students took where the cost of materials was less than $10," said President of the State Board of Education Kurt Liebich. "That's just a huge issue and a huge win for the students of Idaho that they can choose courses that are more affordable for them."

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