(Helena, MT) Nearly 10,000 public school juniors will take the ACT Plus Writing test on Wednesday, April 23 at no cost to their families, thanks to a partnership between the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education's (OCHE's) Montana GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program). In 2011, OCHE was awarded a seven-year, $28 million GEAR UP grant, a portion of which will cover the cost of every public high school junior in Montana having access to the ACT Plus Writing test for the next four years. This is the second year that every public school junior in Montana will have access to the ACT at no cost.
"Offering the ACT at no cost to every junior is already opening doors to new opportunities for Montana students," said Superintendent Juneau. “Additionally, providing every student with the ability to see if they are ready to take that next step into college or if they need to adjust their coursework during their senior year in order to get ready is going to pay off for our students and their families."
The results of statewide ACT testing of all public school juniors in 2013 included: 840 more students qualified for the Governor’s “Best and Brightest” scholarship, 520 more students were eligible for full admission into one of Montana’s four-year colleges, and 754 more students were eligible for provisional admission into a four-year college than the class of 2013.
Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian said the Montana University System is working in many ways to increase the number of college completions and degrees in Montana.
"Taking the ACT as a junior in high school improves students' college readiness and their chances for college completion on time," Christian said.
Statewide testing during the junior year makes the senior year a stronger opportunity for students to prepare and succeed in the transition to college, Christian said.
"This free-of-charge testing is good for students, families, businesses and communities who rely on a skilled and ready workforce," Christian said.
Other states in the region have implemented statewide ACT testing for every junior, including Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota. Over time, states have found that more males, minority students, middle and lower-income students and first-generation students took the ACT and had the ability to assess their college-readiness. In addition, more minority and low-income students enrolled in college. For some students who didn't think about higher education as a possibility, taking the ACT made them aware of their potential for success in college.
Additional benefits of statewide ACT testing for all public school juniors include: the testing will occur during a school day, students do not have to drive to testing sites, and there will be a make-up day on May 7 for those students unable to attend the April 23 testing day. Students can also send their test results to as many as four colleges at no cost.
The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement exam. It tests what students have actually learned in school, not their aptitude for learning. The ACT also measures what students need to know to be ready for first year credit-bearing college courses based on ACT College Readiness Standards. Every student's results can be tied directly to these consistent standards.
The cost for the ACT test without writing is $34. When combined with the optional ACT Writing Test, the total cost is $49.50. The cost for ACT Plus Writing in Montana is $47.50 per student.
A case study on the impact of statewide ACT testing in Illinois and Colorado can be found here.