Under NCLB, states could apply for waivers that would allow them to use college entrance exams as their federal accountability assessment for high school. Under ESSA, however, states are now able to use any “nationally recognized high school academic assessments” to count towards their high school federal accountability requirements. Since the law’s passage, an increasing number of states have announced that they will be using either the SAT or ACT to meet this requirement.
The SAT is a college readiness assessment developed and administered by the College Board. Student SAT scores are used as a component of many college and university admissions requirements, as the exam is intended to assess preparedness for college-level academics. Recent years have seen a downward trend in colleges and universities requiring students to submit SAT and other college-readiness assessment scores for admission. The SAT has undergone several iterations since its inception in 1926, and a new version, out in 2016, is intended to align with the college and career readiness standards taught in the majority of U.S. high schools. While not typically a requirement for all high school students, some states and school districts do require all high school students to take the SAT.
The ACT is a college readiness assessment developed and administered by ACT, Inc. Developed as a competitor to the SAT, the ACT is also used as a component of many college and university admissions requirements, as the exam is intended to assess preparedness for college level academics. ACT Inc. also offers a range of other examinations meant to assess readiness in lower grades (ACT Aspire) and readiness for career (ACT Workkeys).