MADISON (WKOW) -- State Superintendent Tony Evers is proposing all Wisconsin public high school juniors to take the ACT college admissions test.
Evers announced the proposal, which is part of his 2013-2015 education budget request, at a press conference in Pewaukee on Wednesday.
"We need to give our students and their families better resources to plan for study and work after high school," Evers said. "It makes sense to use the ACT to fulfill state and federal testing requirements at the high school level with an exam package that provides so much more than the WKCE: college and career readiness assessments and a college admissions test score."
Under the plan, all public school ninth-grade students would take the ACT EXPLORE assessment in the spring of the 2014-2015 school year. The ACT PLAN would be administered in 10th grade and the ACT and WorkKeys assessments in 11th grade.
The four tests would cost the state approximately $7 million to administer.
The ACT would replace Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE) for mathematics, reading, and English language arts administered to 10th-graders in the fall.
Evers say the ACT assessment package will add growth measures and improve college and career readiness measures for Wisconsin's new accountability system.
Currently, about 61 percent of public high school graduates take the ACT at some time in high school. At least 12 states use the EXPLORE, PLAN, and ACT as part of their state testing program, and five states use WorkKeys in their state testing program for 11th- and 12th-grade students.
"States that have adopted the ACT have found 'diamonds in the rough;' students who had the skills to go on to college or a high-skills trade, but were not considering that as an option," Evers said. "Additionally, administering the ACT suite will help us intervene early. It is too costly for students, their families, and our colleges and universities to provide remedial coursework to high school graduates who are not ready for post secondary studies."
The EXPLORE assessment is designed for students to explore both high school and post-high school options, helping to identify strengths and areas where intervention may be needed. The 10th-grade PLAN helps students continue coursework selection, plan for college and gives them career readiness. Both assessments prepare students to take the ACT.
"Through the ACT suite, we will strengthen the link between high school and our technical college and university systems because we will have better resources to guide students in their high school course selection and post secondary plans," Evers said.
Students in many rural districts lack easy access to a certified ACT testing site. With the ACT proposal, school staff would be trained and every high school would be certified as an ACT testing center.
Right now, the ACT is paid for by parents and a few school districts. Under the ACT proposal, costs for 11th-grade ACT testing would be paid by the state and used for state and federal accountability requirements.
Students who take the ACT a second or third time to improve their score for college admissions purposes would be required to pay the cost of each additional assessment.
WorkKeys provides a job skill assessment that helps students prepare for the workforce whether they plan to go directly into employment, train for a trade, or pursue a technical college or university degree before working.
"We expect all students will enter the workforce after high school or college," Evers said. "Helping them prepare for that reality makes sense."
Wisconsin is among states that award a National Career Readiness Certificate based on results of three WorkKeys assessments: Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information.
As of May 2012, Wisconsin had issued 5,027 National Career Readiness Certificates. Students who successfully complete the WorkKeys assessment will be eligible for a National Career Readiness Certificate.
"This budget proposal will meet the demand for accountability that matters," Evers said. "The ACT suite will provide multiple measures of student achievement that give a picture of individual and school growth for high school accountability. Additionally, by providing more career planning resources, we will do our part to meet the demand for more students with technical skills for manufacturing and other high skill careers that industry says is currently unmet."