Governor Phil Bryant wants Mississippi to re-think its strategy on measuring if a student is ready for a diploma.
"We believe that juniors in high school may be able to take the ACT rather than some of the other testing programs for graduation. We would be able to determine the outcomes of those students at a better level," Bryant said during his executive budget recommendation presentation.
Bryant's budget recommendation suggests setting aside $1.5 million dollars to help with costs of every junior taking the ACT. Currently there are state tests in four subjects that students have to pass. Through the pilot program, the state could explore using the ACT as the exit exam.
That's what the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents Executive Director Dr. Sam Bounds has requested for more than five years now.
"We predict that ACT scores will go up once it becomes the exit test and once we start emphasizing it in schools. We're not allowed to do that wholeheartedly because we're spending so much time getting ready for those exit exams," explained Bounds.
Bounds says a testing change could reduce the problems of "teaching to the test."
"The ACT would allow a broader base of instruction. It would allow again for teachers to be more innovative in teaching material instead of pigeon holing them into one set standard for a test," said Bounds.
Madison County Schools Superintendent Ronnie McGehee says they've already jumped on the idea of testing every junior with the ACT.
"We feel like the ACT is a gatekeeper for our young people. What they do for the future, where they go to school. It means money for our parents," described McGehee.
While McGehee is pushing for better ACT prep, he's encouraged by the potential of making it an exit exam.
"Our response in Madison County would be wow and where and when do we sign up," McGehee said.
This is only part of the Governor's budget recommendation. It would require approval by the legislature. The ACT is a part of the Department of Education's new accountability model.
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