An increasing number of school districts and charter school organizations in California are offering either the SAT or ACT, the other college readiness test, for free to all high school juniors. Newly published research concluded that one benefit — a statistically significant increase in four-year college enrollment — shows the effort is a smart investment.
In 2016-17, 22 districts offered the SAT for free, compared with only four districts two years earlier, according to the College Board, which administers the SAT. An additional six districts, plus 10 charter school organizations and Catholic schools and a county office of education, offered the ACT for free last year. Together, they include some of the state’s largest districts and charters: Santa Ana and Aspire Public Schools (ACT), and Long Beach, Fresno, San Jose and Oakland (SAT).
Superintendents say administering the test during the school day to all students has sharply increased the numbers of students who take it, especially among low-income students. SAT and ACT charge $42 per student for the basic test, about $60 with an essay, although districts can negotiate a discount. Long Beach paid $36 per student, according to the district.
When combined with other efforts, such as offering the Pre SAT, or PSAT, in earlier grades and, more recently, using the Khan Academy’s free online tutorials, some districts have reported higher test scores, too. Long Beach Unified Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser said administering a second free SAT in the fall for seniors enabled 119 additional students, whose SAT scores were borderline in 2016, to qualify for…
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