IL budget mess leaves questions on ACT/SAT unanswered

IL budget mess leaves questions on ACT/SAT unanswered

UNION COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - As if taking a college entrance exam isn't stressful enough, Illinois high school students aren't sure which one to take.

Any Illinois student can take the ACT or the SAT Test. Some students even take both, if they can pay for the tests themselves.

The state pays for one test per junior, but this school year it is not clear which one.

Anna-Jonesboro High School juniors Dylan Fox and Izrailj Markovic have the usual jitters over taking their college entrance exams.

"This test really determines our life, going to college and everything," said Fox.

"It is a factor that does determine your future, where you go, and how much money you make," said Markovic.

This year, there is an added question for students to ponder.

Will the State of Illinois pay for:

A) The ACT Test
B) The SAT Test
C) None of the above?

Guidance counselors and administrators don't even know the answer.

"I like to be able to give them answers, and I haven't been able to do that for a long period of time, so it's definitely more stressful," said Anna-Jonesboro School Guidance Counselor Lyn Bame.

The state has paid for Illinois students to take ACT Test for several years. That trend ended along with the expiration of a contract between the state and ACT Test makers. The State Board of Education then opted to switch to the SAT Test, but without a state budget in place, many questions remain.

"It's my understanding that we won't give the SAT unless there's a budget, and nobody knows when that's going to be," said Cobden School Unit District 17 superintendent Edwin Shoemate.

The ACT and SAT Tests are different in more than just name.

According to the Princeton Review, "ACT questions tend to be more straightforward. On the SAT, you may need to spend time figuring out what you're being asked before you can start solving the problem." Which means students study for the different test in very different ways.

"Students, parents, and schools need to be able to depend on which test they're preparing for," said Republican State Representative Terry Bryant of Murphysboro. 
That is why Bryant is co-sponsoring House Bill 4362. The legislation, if passed, would pay for one test - either the ACT or the SAT. It would be up to the student to choose which test best fits their college aspirations.

"What we don't want is every year, or three years,or five years, or whenever the contract happens to be up - to bounce back and forth between which test the state is going to pay for," said Rep. Bryant.

Cobden High School administrators say they did not want the state's failure to pass a budget to prevent any students from testing well. That's why Shoemate said the Cobden School Board made the decision to pay for its junior students to take the test for which they have been preparing.

"The cost for us is about  $1,200," said Shoemate. "We have 30 students who are going to take the ACT on the nineteenth of April. As a board and an administrative team, we feel it's worth the money."

Cobden is in the minority. Most Illinois school districts are not paying for students to take the act this year.

According to Bame, low-income students enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program can get a waiver to take the ACT Test for free.

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