by Jared Schwartz ’18
Beginning this school year, MCPS will pay for all high school juniors to take either the SAT or ACT. Neither exam will include the optional written portion of the test. Sherwood is one of 18 MCPS high schools that will offer the SAT during a school day, called SAT School Day. Students who choose to take the SAT will take the exam on Tuesday, April 10, while students who take the ACT for free may take the test on Saturday, April 14, or Saturday, June 9, out of school.
The free tests are designed to help increase access to college entrance exams for students who may have difficulty paying the fee for the exam or obtaining transportation to the exam. The SAT without the essay and the ACT without the essay both cost $46. The in-school SAT will be a day off for students who are not taking the exam, but bussing will still be provided. College Board offers a need-based fee waiver for both the SAT and the ACT, but the main issue is transportation for students who may have difficulty getting to the testing site.
“The fee waiver is wonderful if you can get to the testing site … we can give all these people waivers, but if they can’t get to the testing site, it doesn’t matter,” said Assistant School Administrator Stephanie Gelfand.
Students must have either completed or be enrolled in Algebra 2 in order to qualify for the program. Students who do not qualify will take the Accuplacer instead. Maryland state law requires that all students be assessed for “college career readiness” in English and mathematics by the end of 11th grade. In general, this is accomplished by taking either the SAT, ACT, or the Accuplacer. Benchmarks for the redesigned SAT are a 480 for English and a 530 for mathematics, while benchmarks for the ACT are scores of 21 for both English and mathematics. Students who have already met state guidelines for English and mathematics on the SAT or ACT may choose to opt out of taking either exam, although they may choose to take either exam for free even if they have already taken it. Of the 535 students at Sherwood who are eligible to take the SAT or ACT, 448 are taking the SAT, and about 80 are taking the ACT.
“I like [the free test]. It saves me money,” said junior Hailu Daniel.
Participation and performance on the SAT and ACT have long been a priority for Principal Bill Gregory. Sherwood students in the Class of 2017 took either the old or redesigned SAT at a higher rate than the county average, as 71.2 percent of Sherwood students took the SAT compared to 62.2 percent of students in MCPS. Still, disparities remain. For the class of 2017, only 53.7 percent of Hispanic Sherwood students took the SAT and only 15.4 percent of Sherwood students who receive Free and Reduced Price Meals (FARMs) who took the SAT reached Maryland’s benchmarks for both English and mathematics.