By Tristan Ettleman.

 Arizona juniors could take the SATs or ACTs for free if recently introduced legislation becomes law.

But every student would have to take one of the tests — regardless of whether they plan to go to college.

House Bill 2037, introduced on Dec. 18 by Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, would eliminate the state requirements that juniors take the AzMERIT test and the science portion of the AIMS test. Instead, they would have to take the SAT or ACT during school hours.

Students wouldn’t have to get a certain score on the tests in order to graduate.

Carter said the low stakes of AzMERIT result in students not trying very hard on the tests, and believes requiringcollege-readiness exams insteadwould set them up for success.

“Universities and scholarship programs seek out those students that do well,” she said.

What it would do

The goal of AzMERIT is to provide insight into a student’s educational growth.Carter said such a goal is wasted on students taking the test during their junior year since they typically receive results their senior year.

At that point, she said,the college-readiness exams would serve them better.

Furthermore, she said,providing the ACT or SAT tests free to students during school hours and making them compulsory would dramatically increase the number of students who take the test.

A recent pilot program funded by state budget money provided free SATs and ACTs to interested students in select districts.But the $235,000 allocated ran out before all of the interested districts were funded.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s office supplemented the program to cover the districts still on the waiting list, Carter said.

The Deer Valley Unified School District, which operates within Carter’s legislative district, was among those that benefited from the extra funds.

Carter said the reaction to that program was an “outpouring of excitement and gratitude” from schools, students and parents. The Phoenix Union High School District, which has held SAT days funded by the Helios Education Foundation, has the highest attendance of the year on test days.

Pros and cons

The Legislature reconvenes in January. It will be up to Republican leadership to decide whether the bill is granted the required public hearings and votes to advance.

Heidi Vega, spokeswoman for the Arizona School Boards Association, said a key aspect of the bill is its reduction of cost.

“Replacing high-school AzMERIT with a college-readiness exam would eliminate double testing, which is unnecessary and costly,” she said.

Requiring all juniors to take ACT or SAT for free also enhances opportunity, Vega said.

But the bill could face some hurdles.

The proposed test change could impact the state’s accountability-measurement system, which uses test scores to assign letter grades to schools and evaluate teachers.

Carter acknowledged the change would likelyinitially lower schools’ scores, as the population taking the college-readiness tests would not be entirely made up of self-selecting, college-ready students.

Eventually, however, she said she believes school scores would increase as curriculum and student expectations catch up. Carter hopes to also introduce a bill next session that would allow districts to apply for state funds for preparation coursework.

Carter said even for those students who aren’t expecting to attend college, the tests provide information regarding potential careers and certification or trade schools.

Federal law requires all students to take the same test, regardless of which test it is, so that performance can be equally measured. It’s unclear whether allowing students to take the SAT or the ACT would meet this requirement.

It’s also unclear how the bill would impact the state contract and agreements connected to AzMERIT.

Arizona Department of Education officials said it was too early to comment on the bill.

“Our legislative people haven’t been able to take a look at it,” spokesman Dan Godzich said.

Kevin OrganisciakTest Prep Business ArticlesACT,arizona,SATBy Tristan Ettleman.  Arizona juniors could take the SATs or ACTs for free if recently introduced legislation becomes law. But every student would have to take one of the tests — regardless of whether they plan to go to college. House Bill 2037, introduced on Dec. 18 by Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave...Business Guidance for Tutors, Test Prep Instructors, and Admissions Counselors