State to pay for ACT tests for all juniors

The Oklahoma State Department of Education is going to pay for the cost of all public high school juniors to take the ACT exam for college entrance.

“This pilot program also opens the door for all juniors to have the opportunity to begin earning college credit while still in high school. Our state currently lags other states in the number of students concurrently enrolled,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. “A high school diploma alone is no longer sufficient in today’s highly competitive marketplace.”

Hofmeister added that the ACT will provide information about Oklahoma students’ performance as compared to other states in which the test is administered statewide.

Twenty-one other states last year administered the ACT to all its juniors, including: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Oklahoma’s state supported schools use the ACT scores for admission and have done so for more than 55 years.

State Board of Education member Bob Ross praised the program.

By offering the ACT to all Oklahoma juniors in high school, this pilot program opens the door to college to countless students and families,” said Ross, who is president and CEO of the Inasmuch Foundation. “Anything we can do to make college more attainable is incredibly valuable for all Oklahomans, and I congratulate everyone who worked to make it a reality.”

Fellow Board of Education member Gen. Lee Baxter agreed.

“The students of Oklahoma are our top priority,” he said. “By allowing every junior in the state the chance to take the ACT, we are opening doors some students may have never had the opportunity to see behind.”

Last year, about 80 percent of Oklahoma’s graduating public high school seniors took the ACT. For juniors, a little more than half — 22,500 — participated in the exam.

The ACT could be available to upwards of 22,000 additional students. “ACT’s relationship with Oklahoma is one of the longest and most productive state partnerships in which we engage,” said Jon Erickson, president of ACT.

A survey by the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration over a three-day period found that 400 school districts were interested in taking part in the initiative.

The superintendents of Oklahoma’s two largest school districts said this program is great news.

“Offering the ACT for free to all juniors in Oklahoma will provide invaluable information on individual students and districts; this information is crucial as we retool our curriculum standards to meet the needs of all students,” said Rob Neu, superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools. “It’s also a benefit to families who want their children to have a successful future after high school; families shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they can afford to take the ACT, this pilot program will lift that financial burden and allow students to focus on this very important achievement test.”

“We are grateful to the state of Oklahoma for providing the ACT exam to our 11th graders through this pilot program,” said new Superintendent Deborah A. Gist of Tulsa Public Schools. “Experiencing the ACT is an important opportunity for all students, and this pilot will increase equity, as it will be available to all high school juniors this school year. We welcome the opportunity to use a highly-regarded and widely-used measure of college and career readiness to provide all kids with access to a better future.”