SAT & ACT: Paving the Post-Secondary Path in Austin ISD

By Avani Chhaya

AISD lags behind other large districts but exceeds the state in number of students taking SAT / ACT

Austin ISD has a lower rate of high school students taking the SAT and ACT compared to other large school districts in Texas, as of the most recent data available. In the class of 2016, about 74 percent of students took the standardized tests, according to the Texas Education Agency. The SAT and ACT, entrance exams for many universities, are meant to inform college-readiness.

By Avani Chhaya

*The report did not include data for Dallas ISD in 2015.

Numbers are rounded

Gatekeepers to four-year college admission

With most four-year universities still requiring these standardized test scores, the SAT and ACT are traditionally considered to be gatekeepers to acceptance to four-year colleges and universities, limiting students’ options beyond high school for those who do not take these exams.

For those Texas high school seniors looking at freshman admission to an in-state college next fall, 13 Texas universities made the list of 1,250 best global universities featured in U.S. News & World Report. All 13 universities from this list require freshman students to take either the SAT or ACT, in order to apply to the undergraduate program. Without taking one of these standardized tests, a high school applicant will not be considered in the admissions pool for the upcoming school year.

It is important to note that incoming college students can take the TSI (Texas Success Initiative) assessment instead of the SAT and ACT, if they are planning on attending college in Texas. This standardized test determines college-readiness in reading, writing, and math. Not all students, however, need to take the TSI test. A few of the exemptions include students meeting the SAT and ACT requirements or completing college-level English and math courses.

Rank & SAT/ACT Requirements for Texas Undergraduate Universities

Rank University SAT ACT
32 The University of Texas at Austin
81 Rice University
118 Texas A&M University
234 University of Texas at Dallas
341 Baylor University
382 University of Houston
448 University of Texas at San Antonio
462 University of Texas at Arlington
466 Southern Methodist University*
487 Texas Tech University
627 University of North Texas
907 University of Texas at El Paso
1233 Texas State University

Source: 2017 U.S. News & World Report

*These schools listed above require either the SAT or ACT scores to be submitted.

*Southern Methodist University does not require music, theatre, dance, art or film applicants to submit test scores.

College graduates exhibit better outcomes

According to The College Board, college graduates are more likely to earn more money, lead healthier lifestyles, volunteer and vote compared to their counterparts who have only graduated from high school. Taking the SAT or ACT is one of the steps high school students can take to advance their futures and jumpstart their careers.

A barrier to advancing your future may be the cost of these exams. The SAT costs $46 and $60 with the essay section, while the ACT costs $46 and $62.50 with the writing portion. You can apply for a SAT fee waiver or an ACT fee waiver if you meet certain eligibility requirements, including enrollment in a free or reduced lunch program or if your family falls within a specified income range.

To remove one of the biggest hurdles to students applying to a four-year university, school districts can offer free, in-school SAT or ACT exam sessions. By both picking up the cost and mandating these assessments, school districts can increase the number of students, particularly those who come from low-income backgrounds, going to college, as reported in Education Week. In the 2014-2015 school year, Dallas Independent School District administered the SAT for 11th graders and the ACT for 12th graders during the school day and covered the cost on behalf of their students. As a result, 100 percent of students in that district took the SAT and ACT in 2016, increasing the chances of those students enrolling in an institution of higher education. According to Dallas ISD, testing during the school day allows students to continue meeting family and job responsibilities on the weekend and does not require additional transportation for testing. In Houston ISD, juniors are able to take the SAT during a school day for free, an initiative started in 2010. According to a HISD News Blog post, there is a significant increase in the number of students taking the SAT from 4,920 students in 2010 to 9,480 students in 2012. In addition to the overall participation, Houston ISD reports an increase in students from specific racial and ethnic populations taking the SAT compared to previous years. There was a 76 percent increase in African-American students, a 134 percent increase in Hispanic students, a 32 percent increase in White students, and an 18 percent increase in Asian-American students taking the SAT exam in Houston ISD.

Austin ISD, however, does not cover the cost of the SAT or ACT exams for juniors or seniors. Offering free sessions of these college-entrance exams will increase the percent of students taking these exams and increase the likelihood of students directly enrolling in a four-year university, paving the path for a brighter and better future.

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