Meaningful testing

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

When the Missouri State Board of Education announced several weeks ago that it was considering a requirement for all high school students to take a college-entrance exam like the ACT, it scheduled meetings across the state to get feedback on the plan. After seven meetings, only four parents and 14 students were among the more than 500 persons attending. Why was parent and student interest in the proposal so low?

The rest of those attending were teachers and administrators, who generally favor requiring a college-entrance test for all graduating high school students. Proponents say a test like the ACT would be better than the current Missouri Assessment Program test, because there is no down side for students who don't do wellâ or even try to do well, on the exam. In addition, proponents say, some students who otherwise might not take the ACT would probably do well enough to indicate they should consider going on to college.

One reason for the low turnout at the meetings by parents and students may be the fact that about 70 percent of Missouri's high school students already take the ACT, so the proposed change was of little consequence. In a way, that's good news: If 70 percent of students in the state's public high schools are interested enough in pursuing higher education to take the ACT, it also likely means they are trying to maintain their grades while in high school and are less prone to drop out.

Many college scholarship and financial-assistance programs are keyed to doing well on tests like the ACT. If some of the 30 percent of high school students who currently don't take the ACT can find a lifeline to higher education by scoring well on the test, it would make sense to give them that opportunity.

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