The SAT is getting a makeover, the College Board announced earlier this month, but the Beaufort County School District will administer a rival examination despite the changes.
The redesigned SAT college-entrance exam will debut in spring 2016 and include major changes, such as using evidence to support answers, making optional an essay introduced in 2005 and not penalizing students for incorrect answers.
Nonetheless, the Beaufort County School District will give the ACT to all juniors during a school day in the spring, starting in the next school year.
"The SAT is just now aligning themselves with the more rigorous standards and updating their test, whereas the ACT has already made those changes with their assessment," said chief instructional services officer Dereck Rhoads. "We just feel like it is a better option for us right now."
Next year will mark the first time the district has administered a college board exam during the school day, according to Rhoads. Also, this spring, seniors will begin taking the ACT's WorkKeys test, designed to measure job skills.
Rhoads said the district is working with the ACT to get discounted prices on the tests, and it should be able to provide them to all students at no cost to them.
"In the past, only students who chose to take the test would do so," Rhoads said. "We are doing this in an effort to ensure we are providing access for students and to really have a gauge to see how well all our students are prepared."
The district will still allow the SAT to be administered at its schools on weekends, as it does now.
Rhoads said he was not surprised by the changes to the SAT, as many tests are changing to align with more rigorous critical-thinking standards. However, he said, some educators are concerned that making the essay section optional signals that writing is not an important or critical skill.
College Board president David Coleman said the new SAT will better reflect what students are learning in high school and what they need to know for college or a job, according to an article in the magazine Education Week.
The SAT revisions come two years after more students across the country began taking the ACT. For the class of 2013, 1.8 million students took the ACT, while 1.7 million took the SAT.
In South Carolina, more students take the SAT. That holds true for Beaufort County, where about 710 students took the SAT last year and about 430 took the ACT. But the number of district students taking the ACT has continued to grow, Rhoads said.
"I think there is great value in the SAT and ACT, and there is data that shows they are a good measure," Rhoads said, "but we must remember that they are just one of multiple measures."