School chiefs like plan to require ACT

Oct. 2, 2012

Sussex - State school superintendent Tony Evers was in Pewaukee to announce a new initiative that would replace the current high school state standardized testing program and require every student to take the ACT instead.

Evers chose Pewaukee High School to announce his proposal, which the Department of Public Instruction will include in its 2013-15 state education budget request.

The proposed plan, which requires approval from the state Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker, would replace the Wisconsin Knowledge Concepts Examination beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

High school students would take four tests throughout their careers. Freshmen students would take the ACT EXPLORE assessment in spring 2015. A second test, the ACT PLAN, would be administered to sophomore students. The suite of ACT tests would culminate in a student's junior year with the ACT and the WorkKeys assessment. The proposal would cost the state an estimated $7 million, as the state would assume the $50 fee to take the ACT.

The ACT, widely used by colleges and universities nationwide as an assessment of a student's readiness for college coursework, is a key factor in admissions. Currently, some 61 percent of Wisconsin high school students take the test on their own. All would take it under the DPI's proposal.

"By using this suite of tests … we'll be identifying potentially more students who hadn't considered going to college," Evers said at the news conference.

"There is a cost to this. Quality does cost," he said, citing the $7 million tab.

Hamilton School District Superintendent Kathleen Cooke, whose district also currently utilizes much of the ACT suite of tests, said the district is in good position to transition to the ACT if the proposal becomes reality.

"We actually already implement almost all of the suggestions in that proposal from the state superintendent. We already utilize PLAN and EXPLORE, and all of our juniors take the ACT practice test now. We require that," she said. "The only thing that would really be different is that instead of giving our kids the practice test, which is the year-old test, we would be giving the actual test."

She said the district would also have to implement the WorkKeys assessment into the district's plan, but the proposal could yield budgetary benefits on the local level as well.

The Hamilton School District currently funds the program through its own operating budget. Under the state superintendent's proposal, the state would pick up that tab instead.

In addition, Cooke sees the ACT as a more challenging and rigorous assessment than the WKCE.

Speaking at the news conference, Pewaukee School District Superintendent JoAnn Sternke said Pewaukee is well-prepared for the change. All of its students currently take the EXPLORE and PLAN tests, as well as an ACT prep test - that has produced what she called "the most dramatic gains ever" in student achievement.

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