Legislature passes ACT testing bill

Published: Wednesday, March 13 2013 8:25 p.m. MDT

Since 2010, high school students have taken the ACT through a statewide pilot program, with end-of-year Criterion Referenced Tests being used to meet the state's basic skills requirement. In 2012, Utah's average ACT score was the second highest in the country when compared with the 10 states where more than 95 percent of students took the test.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Both chambers of the Utah Legislature passed a bill Wednesday that funds and requires the administration of a college readiness assessment, such as the ACT or SAT, for high school students.

SB175 provides $850,000 for both the administration of an assessment and to provide access to students for a pre-test preparation program. State Superintendent Martell Menlove said the funding in the bill is sufficient to provide the test when combined with other funds in the education budget that remain since the retirement of the Utah Schools Basic Competency Test, or UBSCT.

"It should be enough not only to have each junior take an end-of-level test such as the SAT or the ACT, but also, hopefully, to fund most students taking those pre-tests," Menlove said. "The intent is to implement a battery of tests that will lead students to being more college and career ready."

The bill has been one of the State School Board's highest priorities since the 2012 Legislative session, when a similar bill failed to clear both chambers prior to the close of the session.

When the bill failed to pass last year, educators were put in the position of following the intent of state law without complying with the letter of the law, which continued to call for the administration of the antiquated and retired basic skills competency test.

Criterion-referenced tests were used to comply with the state's basic skills testing law, while the ACT was administered to all students through pilot program funding.

In 2012, the average ACT score for Utah students was ranked second in the country when compared with the 10 states where more than 95 percent of students took the test. Utah outperformed peer states Colorado and Wyoming, as well as nearly matching the average score of Illinois, which has universally administered the ACT since 2008.

The bill's House sponsor, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said SB175 is intended to assess the college readiness of individual students while also potentially inspiring or motivating those teens who may not have considered pursuing higher education.

"Many of our students don't attend college because they just think they can't do it," he said. "It's believed that many students will realize that they're actually prepared to go to college when they see what kind of score the get."

E-mail: benwood@deseretnews.com

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