Despite failed legality challenges presented on behalf of more that 120 Colorado school district superintendents opposed to the state's decision to switch from ACT to SAT testing as early as this school year, the Colorado Department of Education, while unwavering in its decision to switch, did give superintendents a sigh of relief Monday.

Despite failed legality challenges presented on behalf of more that 120 Colorado school district superintendents opposed to the state's decision to switch from ACT to SAT testing as early as this school year, the Colorado Department of Education, while unwavering in its decision to switch, did give superintendents a sigh of relief Monday.

In a letter released last week, the Department of Education confirmed that it has received approval to administer the ACT exam to high school juniors this year, reversing its original decision which determined the College Board's revised SAT and PSAT exams be recommended to serve as the new college entrance and 10th-grade exams for Colorado students beginning this year.

Under the revised agreement, this year's sophomores will take the PSAT in preparation for Colorado's full transition to the SAT in spring 2017 while high school juniors will take the ACT.

In Fowler, administrators are concerned.

Donna Aragon, counselor, said "I am concerned with the switch from ACT to SAT because we have historically shown a substantial difference in what our students have been able to achieve between the two tests. Our students have performed better on the ACT for many years, and I am hoping we can help the upcoming students make the change without sacrificing their access to colleges and opportunities due to this change."

But she is encouraged that the switch was postponed.

"I am ecstatic that they have postponed the switch for one more year since this year’s juniors have been preparing for the ACT and a switch at this point in the year would have been unfair to them," she said.

Russell Bates, secondary principal in Fowler, agreed.

"It is a huge benefit to this year’s juniors to be able to take the ACT. They have been preparing for a long time. The change to ACT is a disaster for our kids. Students are exposed to content consistent with the ACT very early in their education. We will now have to expose to content in line with SAT which is possible but those students taking SAT in the near future will have to adjust quickly. In addition to content the switch has other negative effects on our students. School districts have been using longitudinal data from ACT since 2001 that will now be incompatible with SAT. A student that wishes to take the ACT exam will now have to pay out of their own pocket, which will be a financial burden for some. Overall I think the decision to switch was not in the interest of the students in Colorado," he said.

In La Junta, allowing this year's juniors to take the ACT was welcomed news.

"I can live with it," said La Junta School District Superintendent Rick Lovato, one of the long list of superintendents opposed to the switch this year. "It looks like the switch may be a significant savings to the state financially," he said, though he went on to express concerns as to where the money may end up.

"While it may save the state money, I'm wondering where it will all go," he said. "I can't help but be frustrated. It will be a very interesting couple of years and SAT preparation is going to cost the district more money. While it doesn't appear that we will have to change our curriculum, we are going to have to start from scratch with post secondary testing preparation."

"As a kid, I had to take the SAT test," he said. "Tests were very different then and SAT testing is a new concept. Honestly, I have no idea what it even looks like. Initially, I was really, really angry. We are throwing out 15 years of data and starting over. We have several resources to aid ACT prep and we're left saying, 'what are we gonna do with it now?'"

Las Animas School District guidance counselor Addie Wallace echoed Lovato's frustrations, saying, "We were in panic mode. Kids were taking practice exams for the ACT not the SAT. We're glad that the state listened to concerns from the districts and agreed to give it a year. For our kids, the biggest change will be learning how to read scores and what they mean. Right now we don't know what those scores mean. However, we have had to get used to these kinds of changes because the state has changed them so often."

The shift in the state's college entrance exam was a result of the state legislation passed last May (H.B. 15-1323) which, among other things, required the department to go through a competitive procurement process for both a college entrance exam and a new 10th-grade exam. In addition, the new 10th-grade exam had to be aligned to both the Colorado Academic Standards and to the college entrance exam.

The process of developing a request for proposals and selecting a vendor for a contract of this magnitude typically takes six to nine months. The department issued a request for proposals for these exams in November and received bids from two vendors, College Board and ACT. After a comprehensive review of the two proposals, the 15-member selection committee made up of educators and district administrators from urban, rural and suburban communities across Colorado, with a single Colorado Department of Education representative, chose the College Board's SAT as the college entrance exam and the PSAT as the 10th-grade exam.

But while the board's decision to switch is expected to save the state money, Lovato says added expenses may be on the horizon for Colorado school districts.

"One portion of the grade Colorado schools receive from the state when determining funding is based off of post-secondary workforce readiness," Lovato explained. "Part of that average is our composite ACT score. Our educators, while teaching up to state standards, are going to be asked to do more at our expense to train kids for a test we aren't prepared for. It's hard to see the ripple effect from the state saving money when we have spent time and money preparing kids for ACT testing and now being faced with added expenses for our teachers to get acclimated to SAT testing."

"My biggest concern though, aside from all of that," added Lovato, "is that in the western United States, ACT testing is what has been preferred. In La Junta, 60 percent of our students opt to attend college, higher than the state average. For those students applying to colleges outside of Colorado, if one test is preferred over the other, students are going to have to take both tests, which becomes more stressful for the student and becomes an added expense for parents. I would hope that most schools are accepting both tests and, if that is the case and there are no adverse affects on our students, we'll roll with the punches."

SAT testing, as ACT tests in the past, will be provided in April to students free of charge. Those wishing to take the ACT test however, will be required to pay for the test out-of-pocket.

"It almost gives you the impression that it is all about money," said Lovato. "And all the while our schools are fighting tooth and nail to provide proper education to our students."