Illinois Moving Back to ACT as Required Exam for High School Graduation

A student writing on paper. (WTTW News)A student writing on paper. (WTTW News)

High school juniors across Illinois will begin taking the ACT next spring as part of their graduation requirements after state education officials this week awarded a new contract to the exam organization.

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The Illinois State Board of Education on Wednesday awarded a six-year, $53 million contract to the ACT, Inc. organization, meaning high school students statewide will shift back to the ACT after taking SAT exams for most of the past decade.

State Superintendent of Education Tony Sanders explained the decision in a weekly message posted online, saying the ACT aligns with the Illinois Learning Standards and provides a “secure online testing experience” for students, while reducing administrative burden on school districts.

“I understand the effect that changing assessment vendors has on the work that schools do to prepare students for success,” Sanders said in the message. “ISBE’s Assessment Department will partner with ACT once the contract is executed to provide ample support to the field. We will help you prepare teachers for the transition and help you communicate with students and families, so you can continue doing your best work in teaching and learning.”

The ACT consists of four multiple-choice tests covering English, mathematics, reading and science. It is scored on a 36-point scale. The SAT has two sections, English and math, with scores ranging between 400 and 1600 points.

Illinois previously used the ACT as a testing requirement for 15 years, until it switched to the SAT in 2016.

ISBE said its goal is to have its contract finalized by the start of the fiscal year on July 1 so it can put a transition support plan in place by July 15.

A spokesperson for Chicago Public Schools said the district will communicate all potential changes to students and families by the end of the current school year.

”The District will continue to administer the state-required assessments each spring,” a CPS spokesperson said in a statement. “Based on ISBE's announcement, this means CPS will begin to administer the ACT assessments, not the PSAT and SAT, in Spring 2025 as the state high school accountability tests.”


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