ACT still 'the right thing' for Dist. 203 juniors

 
 
Updated 12/8/2015 8:32 AM

Don't drop out of those ACT prep classes just yet, District 203 juniors.

The Naperville unit district plans to spend $80,795 to give the ACT to juniors during school in April, despite the state's announcement of a yet-unfunded contract with SAT as the college entrance exam of choice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The district's 1,430 juniors at Naperville Central and Naperville North high schools will be scheduled to take the ACT on April 19, pending school board approval of money to pay for the tests.

Testing at other grade levels in District 203 prepares students to take the ACT as their college entrance exam, so Superintendent Dan Bridges said educators decided it's best to continue with that plan for this year. Using money from the learning services budget to cover the cost will ensure all juniors get to take the test regardless of financial means.

"From an equity standpoint, we believe every child should have this provided to them," Bridges said. "We think this is the right thing to do for our kids."

School board members agreed.

"I think with certainty to go through with the ACT is the right course," board member Kristin Fitzgerald said.

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But officials also expressed frustration with the state government for the new contract with the SAT. Board members Monday night railed at the state for choosing a new test without a way to pay for it, for switching too suddenly to an exam for which students have not been preparing and for failing to provide clarity about whether the SAT is now the test of the future.

ACT testing for juniors during the spring has been funded by the state since 2001, said Tim Wierenga, assistant superintendent of assessment and analytics. Since then, the state and individual districts have collected data about how scores have progressed, he said.

Moving away from the ACT would jeopardize that significant data on student growth and achievement in the district, board members said.

Scrapping the ACT would frustrate students, too, Naperville North High School senior Abby Radar said, because many of them are taking test prep courses designed for the ACT. That preparation could be a waste without a chance to take the exam during class.

"That's the course that we've put you on, so we expect to give the ACT upon the board's approval regardless of what state decides," Bridges said.

The school board is expected to approve spending $56.50 for each junior to take the ACT plus writing during its next board meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21, in the administrative center at 203 W. Hillside Road.

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