Daily Journal Editorial
The most important single component in determining whether a Mississippi high school student gets into college – and sometimes which institutional choices he or she has available – is the American College Test.
A student’s ACT can make or break that person’s future academic progression because it’s seen as the best determinant of the ability to do college work.
Yet as important as ACT scores are to Mississippi students, they aren’t part of the way schools are evaluated in the state. They should be.
Part of the reason the ACT isn’t factored in to Mississippi’s school accountability is the difficulty in securing the data, according to state education officials. But what if the schools paid the fees and required the test to be taken during school hours and in the student’s own school, rather than early on Saturday mornings and often in an unfamiliar setting?
That’s a question members of the state Board of Education have asked, and they’ve decided to pursue a request that the Legislature fund the costs of the ACT for Mississippi students and that schools give it on site. The cost is estimated at $1.6 million, a potentially manageable amount.
This way, schools would have less trouble collecting the data and it can be better incorporated into the accountability system.
Test scores are used as the primary measure of how well schools are educating their students, leading to their designation on a ranking level that now runs from A for the top schools to F for the worst. But it seems reasonable to include the
ACT, since students’ performance on that test is both reflective of the education they’ve received and critical to their futures.
ACT scores will no doubt be either a drag or a boost for some schools and school districts in their state rankings if they’re included, but the more likely result for many if not most is that ACT outcomes will square fairly closely with the other indicators. Generally speaking, school districts already doing well or poorly will see that reflected by their ACT scores.
The chairs of both legislative education committees, Gray Tollison of Oxford in the Senate and John Moore of Brandon in the House, have reacted favorably to the idea. As Mississippi strives to improve its educational performance and increase its college graduates, it’s a move that makes good sense.