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Press Release

Testimony of Dr. Vince Rock-Walsh before ISBE FY 2022 Budget Hearing - October 16, 2020

Dr. Vince Walsh-Rock, Executive Director, Illinois School Counselor Association

I submit this written testimony on behalf of both the Illinois School Counselor Association (ISCA) and the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC). Together, these two associations represent more than 2,600 school counselors, college admission counselors and other professionals dedicated to serving the needs of Illinois students. 

We request that the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) waive the requirement that the class of 2021 take the SAT with Essay as a graduation requirement and reallocate those funds to better support students.

ISBE guidance dated July 31, 2020 requires Illinois public schools to host the SAT on either September 23 or October 14, but also cancels other tests in the SAT suite of assessments. This requirement unnecessarily places students, faculty, and communities at risk while new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Illinois, and it undermines local school districts’ decisions to move to remote learning to protect community health. We continue to urge ISBE to reconsider this requirement for the class of 2021 and to waive it for the class of 2022.

As experts in the field of college admission and school counseling, we recognize the role that the SAT plays in postsecondary access. Since the beginning of this pandemic, colleges in Illinois and around the country have extended test-optional pathways, and created other ways to admit and enroll students. The National Association of College Admission Counseling has asked colleges and universities to pledge their commitment to making test-optional college admission a reality. To date, 555 institutions have made this pledge, including all Illinois public universities. Fairtest, a national standardized testing watchdog has actually identified 1,600 post-secondary institutions nationwide who have announced test-optional or test-blind policies this year. This national trend recognizes that no exam is worth jeopardizing the health or safety of students and communities. 

In addition to safety concerns that may or may not be resolved in time for the spring 2021 test administration, we have serious reservations about how standardized admission testing  continues to negatively impact Illinois’s students of color. It is well-documented that communities of color are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic at higher rates than White families. They have suffered increased job loss, economic hardships, rates of infection and death. It is no surprise that families of Color choose remote learning at higher rates than White families. Requiring all students to attend testing in person places an undue and threatening burden on these families. Imposing this graduation requirement is an equity issue that further exacerbates the chasm of fair and equitable access for students of Color. 

Additionally, many students that elect to take the required test have not been in a school for six months. Such a testing environment may have deleterious effects on students thereby jeopardizing student performance even further. Taking the SAT never had the intention of causing undue harm. 

Finally, if ISBE continues to require the SAT as a graduation requirement and allows districts to exempt individual students, we are placing an unmanageable clerical burden on school staff. When a family declines to participate in the state-mandated SAT, school staff must file a waiver for each student. This clerical task, which unfortunately is too often relegated to school counselors, takes much needed time away from supporting our most vulnerable students during a time when students are experiencing increased levels of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. 

In conclusion, on behalf of both ISCA and IACAC, we again urge ISBE to exercise their influence to minimize this risk by waiving the SAT graduation requirement and to reallocate these funds to better support students.

About IACAC: The Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling (www.iacac.org) is a membership organization dedicated to serving students as they explore options and make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. It is composed of over 1,800 professionals working in high school counseling and college admissions offices, as well as community based organizations, independent education consultants, graduate programs, and retirees. IACAC is a regional affiliate of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (www.nacacnet.org).

IACAC urges ISBE to reconsider SAT graduation requirement - September 21, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 21, 2020
Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling
Linda Haffner, Manager of Operations
lhaffner@iacac.org
(800) 829-0176

IACAC urges ISBE to reconsider SAT graduation requirement

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) should extend a one-year waiver of the high school diploma requirement that requires the class of 2021 take the SAT, according to the Illinois Association of College Admission Counseling (IACAC).

“We greatly respect the work of ISBE’s Transition Advisory Workgroup to create a return to school plan that protects our communities,” says IACAC President Megan O’Rourke. “Waiving the SAT as a graduation requirement for the class of 2021 is consistent with the safety goals in the plan and we strongly encourage ISBE to reconsider this decision.”

ISBE guidance dated July 31, 2020 requires Illinois public schools to host the SAT on either September 23 or October 14, but also cancels other tests in the SAT suite of assessments for the fall cycle. The SAT was originally slated to be taken in April, but was postponed because of the move to remote learning due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Work conducted by ISBE to offer guidance to Illinois school districts has allowed them numerous ways of delivering education to Illinois K-12 students both online and face-to-face.

“Public school districts around the State of Illinois have been allowed to make decisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic based on what makes sense for them. Mandating an in-person exam at a time when many districts have opted for remote learning unnecessarily places students, faculty, and communities at risk,” O’Rourke says.

In recent weeks the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) reports that more than 1,450 post-secondary institutions have adopted test optional policies. Furthermore, NACAC has challenged colleges and universities to pledge their commitment to affirm that their test-optional policies will not penalize students for the absence of a score. To date, 544 institutions have made this pledge, including many Illinois public and private universities. This national trend recognizes that no exam is worth jeopardizing the health or safety of students and communities.

“As experts in the field of college admission and school counseling, we recognize the role that the SAT plays in postsecondary access,” says O’Rourke. “Since the beginning of this pandemic, our member colleges in Illinois and around the country have extended test-optional pathways and created other ways to admit and enroll students.”

IACAC calls on ISBE to immediately waive the diploma requirement to protect Illinois high school students and their communities.

About IACAC: The Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling (www.iacac.org) is a membership organization dedicated to serving students as they explore options and make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. It is composed of over 1,800 professionals working in high school counseling and college admissions offices, as well as community based organizations, independent education consultants, graduate programs, and retirees. IACAC is a regional affiliate of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (www.nacacnet.org).

Virtual College Exploration - September 9, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 9, 2020
Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling
Linda Haffner, Manager of Operations
lhaffner@iacac.org
(800) 829-0176

 

Virtual College Exploration Program for all Illinois Students
College Fairs Go Completely Virtual This Fall

Mount Prospect, IL: The Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC) recently announced the Virtual College Exploration program for all Illinois students September 15-October 22. The six-week program consists of hundreds of opportunities for students to learn about the college search process and about many different colleges through panel presentations and information sessions. Students will gain a wealth of college knowledge, get exposure to a variety of colleges, and have the opportunity to ask questions of admission counselors, all in a safe, flexible, online environment. All high school students, parents, and counselors throughout Illinois are all welcome to attend. Participation is free. Students should participate live so they can ask questions and interact with the college admission counselors. If students are unable to attend live, we still encourage them to register for the sessions they are interested in and recordings will be available on the IACAC website later.

 

Features and benefits of the Virtual College Exploration program include: Hear from Admission Officers; Gain Important College Knowledge; 357 Colleges and Universities
Registration for the Virtual College Exploration program is now open and sessions will start September 15. For more information on IACAC’s Virtual College Exploration program, visit https://www.iacac.org/virtual-college-exploration/students/.

About IACAC: The Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling is an organization of counseling professionals dedicated to serving students as they explore options and make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. IACAC members are counselors, admission or financial aid officers, active retirees, or students who are concerned about the future of education in the State of Illinois and in the nation. IACAC is committed to maintaining high standards which foster ethical and social responsibility among those involved in the transition process.

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