ACT or SAT in Illinois?

Starting in 2025, Illinois will see a significant shift in testing for public high school students: they will switch from the SAT to the ACT

On May 14, 2024 Illinois State Superintendent Dr. Tony Sanders announced that the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) will be switching from the SAT to the ACT for the state's high school accountability assessment. Starting in 2025, this transition carries significant implications for educators and students.

The ISBE's contract with the College Board® will expire on June 30, 2024. This means that students in Illinois high schools will start taking the ACT in the 2025 school year instead of the SAT which has been administered since 2016. It was previously reported in March 2024 that the ISBE was awarding a contract to ACT, Inc but the Illinois State Procurement Office was approached with appeals to reject the contract. Those appeals have now officially been denied.

All public high school students in Illinois are required to take accountability assessments like the ACT or SAT to obtain their high school diploma. For the last 8 years, that accountability assessment in Illinois has been the SAT. For 15 years before that, students had previously taken the ACT. The state board had continuously renewed the College Board's contract during those 8 years, despite protests from ACT, Inc. in 2016 and 2018.

The new 2025 contract with ACT, Inc. includes assessments for 9th, 10th, and 11th graders and aligns with Illinois Learning Standards in English and math. In addition to the ACT's alignment with standards, Dr. Sanders points out that College Board and ACT, Inc were both very competitive in their bids on two elements that make up 75% of the points awarded - technical specifications and commitment to diversity. The remaining 25% of the points are based on price and were solely reviewed by the State Procurement Office.

Answering Your Questions About the New Illinois ACT

The switch from the SAT to the ACT in Illinois raises numerous considerations and implications for educators and students. Let’s take a closer look at some questions we’ve been getting about this transition to the Illinois ACT.  

So the SAT Isn't Required in Illinois?

The SAT is required in Illinois up to June 30th 2024. That will change for the 2025 school year when the contract with the College Board expires and the new 3 year contract with ACT, Inc goes into effect.

Now that we know with certainty that the ACT will be required, schools will need to adjust their curriculum and resources to accommodate this change. Dr. Sanders also noted that the ISBE's Assessment Department will partner with ACT to "provide ample support to the field." He added that once there is an executed contract, there will be a transition plan by July 15th, and importantly - the Assessment Department will contact schools to get feedback on a number of issues, including preferred testing windows.


Will Students Take the ACT or SAT in Illinois?

Because the ISBE has officially awarded a contract to ACT, Inc, high school students in Illinois will be required to take the ACT to graduate. However, students still have the option to take the SAT at their own expense if the college or university they’re applying to requires it or they feel it would be beneficial to their application.


Will Chicago Schools Switch to the ACT?

In contrast to the state of Illinois, the Chicago Board of Education recently renewed its contract with the College Board in April 2023. That means that Chicago public schools will continue administering the PSAT and SAT until at least 2026. This divergence in contracts between Chicago and Illinois is causing some confusion, as it’s still unclear whether Chicago students will be taking the SAT, ACT, or both.  


Should Schools Prepare for the Illinois SAT or the Illinois ACT?

Illinois schools, especially those in Chicago, may consider doubling up on preparation for both the ACT and SAT to ensure students are adequately equipped for their college entrance exams. This preparation can significantly impact college admissions, as standardized test scores remain a crucial component in the application process. While some schools have done away with college entrance exams, many top universities still require the SAT or ACT in their admission requirements.


Will There Be More Changes in the Future?

Considering the ever-evolving world of standardized testing and college admissions, the switches in contracts, and the appeals against those changes, it's highly likely that things will change yet again in the future. Currently, the SAT has gone fully digital and the ACT is beginning to offer online testing options. Dr. Sanders noted in his message that ACT does provide a fully secure online testing environment for students.

The SAT has also switched to an adaptive testing model, where questions adjust based on the student’s performance on previous questions. Because of this, many Illinois educators argue that the SAT has been keeping up with the changing world of education, while the ACT has lagged behind. They argue that the ACT has not changed in years and doesn’t align with Illinois Learning Standards anymore. So, will things change again in the future? Probably, but it remains to be seen what direction things will take.


How Horizon Education Can Help Schools and Districts Prepare for Either the SAT or ACT

Horizon Education is well-positioned for the transition to the Illinois ACT, offering both SAT and ACT readiness courses and benchmark assessments. Existing Illinois customers that won’t need to completely overhaul or rewrite their SAT curriculum. Customers can switch to our ACT product, or customers can use both SAT and ACT products to help their students prepare for whatever makes sense for their situation.

Our schools and districts will be able to seamlessly transition to ACT without the need to implement new tools, ensuring continuity in their college test preparation. So whether you’re in Chicago preparing for the SAT or in Springfield, Rockford, or any other location in Illinois preparing for the ACT, Horizon has the support you need to master your accountability assessments and college entrance exams.

No matter what happens with Illinois’s standardized testing, Horizon is here to help. Request a demo today!

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