Both Riverside-Brookfield High School and Lyons Township High School still intend to administer the ACT exam free of charge to all juniors next spring despite the state of Illinois dropping the ACT as a mandated test.
The ACT has been an integral part of state testing in Illinois since 2001. But, this year the Illinois State Board of Education is changing the tests that juniors are required to take as part of the adoption of the new Common Core state standards.
A new exam, called the PARCC exam, is being developed and will be required next spring, barring a change of course. PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment for College and Career Readiness,
The state will no longer require that students take the ACT or the WorkKeys test, which together made up the old Prairie State Achievement Exam juniors at Illinois public high schools took every April.
But the state has said that high schools could still offer the ACT and WorkKeys test to all their students if they wanted to. Both local high schools have decided to still require that every junior take the ACT.
“The tentative plan at District 208 is that every junior will take an ACT here in March,” said Riverside Brookfield High School District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis.
The state will pay for the cost of the ACT for schools that still continue to require that all juniors take the test. The state has budgeted $14 million to pay for ACT testing. Normally the ACT costs either $38 (no written component) or $54.50 (written component), but both RBHS and LTHS will pay the costs for students taking the ACT.
Both RBHS and LTHS plan on administering the ACT on March 3, 2015, which is about six weeks earlier than in previous years when the ACT was part of state testing done in the third week of April. Some educators have expressed fears that students’ scores could be lower, because they’re taking the test earlier in the school year.
“I think any day that our kids are not sitting for instruction that could benefit them on that exam, I think it could have an impact,” said Lyons Township High School District 204 Superintendent Tim Kilrea.
Many parents have liked the state requirement that schools administer the ACT, because that means that families didn’t have to pay for the test, the results for which are routinely included on college applications. Requiring the ACT has also been justified as a way to make sure that low-income students are eligible for college.
In the past decade the ACT has been used as a crude way to rank high schools, but with the ACT no longer being required that may become more difficult.
However, it seems that most suburban Chicago public high schools will still require their juniors to take the ACT.
Neither RBHS nor LTHS have made a decision about whether to offer the WorkKeys test next year. The WorkKeys test is designed to measure job-readiness skills, and many students in the past have not taken the test seriously, because it has no impact on their chances for admission to college.
Kilrea said that LTHS is looking at ways to offer the WorkKeys test to students who want to take the test.
“Obviously we want to serve all students and so we are coming up with some ideas as to how we can accommodate students who would like to sit for the WorkKeys,” Kilrea said.