By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Gov. Phil Bryant is recommending that the Legislature appropriate $1.5 million during the 2014 session to allow school districts to incorporate the ACT into its high school exit exam.
The proposal was part of the governor’s overall budget recommendation, which he released Wednesday for the Legislature to consider during the 2014 session.
In his budget proposal, Bryant said he was recommending the expenditure “to help offset costs for schools that wish to administer the ACT as a high school exit exam in lieu of other state assessments. Several superintendents have expressed interest in this concept, and I am in favor of exploring it on a piloted basis.”
There is growing support among educators to use the ACT as part of the official state accountability system.
The state Board of Education is in the process of developing a new accountability model for the public schools, and is looking to incorporate ACT as part of the model. State Board member Richard Morrison of Brandon, a school administrator in Rankin County, said at an earlier meeting of the Board that the ACT “is a measure of college and career readiness.”
The state board is looking at allowing schools to use the ACT as a path to graduation for students who might not pass the standard subject area exam required for graduation. The student making a certain score on the ACT in that subject area still would be able to graduate.
The state Board estimated that it would cost about $1.6 million to mandate ACT statewide.
The ACT is one of two college entrance exams administered nationwide. Mississippi traditionally is at the top or near the top in the highest percentage of its students taking the ACT.
The cost of taking the ACT is $36.50 per student, $52.50 with the writing component included. Mississippi’s public community colleges and universities don’t require the writing portion of the test.
In a few instances, local school districts pay for the ACT testing, but in most cases students pay for their own testing. Because the school districts do not pay for the testing, it often is difficult for the information to be gathered by the state in a manner that could make it part of an accountability model.
Plus, House Education Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon, has said students traditionally take the test at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, often at unfamiliar locations.
“We think it will help results if the schools can administer the tests during the week instead of at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning after a Friday night football or basketball game,” Moore said.
Currently, students are supposed to pass English, algebra, biology and history exams to graduate. But those tests are changing, ostensibly to require more critical-thinking skills, as part of the new accountability model and the new Common Core standards, which are national standards developed by the nation’s governors and state school chiefs detailing what students should learn at each grade level.