Columbia Public Schools to Provide Free ACT Tests For All Juniors

All high school juniors will be able to take the ACT test for free next spring thanks to funding from Columbia Public Schools, spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said.

The state had funded the college-placement test for juniors since 2015. But earlier this year $4 million was cut from the state assessment budget, and the state decided to no longer pay for the exams.

The Columbia School Board will vote on a fiscal 2018 budget amendment to provide $55,000 so that all juniors can take the exam. Baumstark said she thinks about 1,300 juniors will take the ACT next year.

Baumstark said the district typically has a little room within some of its budgetary line items.

“Fifty-five thousand is quite a bit, but not when you look at the grand scheme of how much assessments cost,” she said. “It’s something we believe is an important investment in our students.”

Many colleges and universities use the ACT to determine college readiness and skills levels in applicants, Baumstark said. ACT test scores are often required for college admissions and can help students qualify for scholarships.

The test can cost $42.50 or $58.50 depending on whether the student is tested on writing, according to the ACT’s website.

Although students from low-income households can qualify for a fee waiver if they are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch, Baumstark said there are other advantages to the school paying for every junior to take it on the same day. The students might have not considered themselves eligible or able to apply to college until taking the test and seeing a score that could get them scholarships, she said.

“We want students to explore every possibility for success and advancement in life after high school and this is one avenue to do that,” Baumstark said. “It just opens the door for them to consider lots of possibilities for after graduation.”

Brent Ghan, deputy executive director of the Missouri School Boards’ Association, said he knew of two other public…

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