Colorado students will take computer-based SAT and PSAT starting next year

Empty Denver South High School
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Student lockers in Denver’s South High School, Tuesday, May 5, 2020.

Colorado high school students will continue to take the SAT and PSAT as the state’s way of measuring school and district academic performance, but they’ll switch to the computerized version in spring 2024.

A committee of teachers and school administrators recommended the College Board’s online suite of tests to replace its paper version, according to the Colorado Department of Education. The new computerized test was piloted by the College Board in 2021, and the organization said in a news release last year that it’s “easier to give, and more relevant.”

State law requires the state education department to take competitive bids every five years for a statewide assessment. The selection, however, was delayed a year because of the pandemic. The state must wait 10 days before the contract becomes official, according to a news release.

Colorado public colleges and universities no longer require a college-level exam like the SAT or ACT for acceptance, part of a growing “test optional” movement nationwide. However, many colleges and universities still ask for test scores as part of their application, and even students applying to test-optional schools can submit their scores to show their qualifications.

Colorado began using the PSAT and SAT to measure students’ math and English abilities in 2017, part of a compromise to reduce the overall number of tests students take in school. At the time, Colorado was the epicenter of an opt-out movement protesting a heavy testing burden, and many parents excused their students from taking standardized tests. 

The idea was to use a test high school students would want to take anyway because it would help with their college and scholarship applications. Ninth and 10th graders take the PSAT and high school juniors take the SAT in the spring.

Colorado uses the test results along with graduation rates and other factors to rate the performance of schools and districts. SAT scores also are one way students can show they meet graduation requirements for basic competency in math and language arts.

While Colorado high school students use the college readiness exams, K-8 students use the Colorado Measure of Academic Success, or CMAS, to test math, English, and science understanding.

Jason Gonzales is a reporter covering higher education and the Colorado legislature. Chalkbeat Colorado partners with Open Campus on higher education coverage. Contact Jason at [email protected].