PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi House will consider a bill that may do away with the current high school exit exams. Governor Phil Bryant supports the measure. It would set up a $1.5 million pilot program to have high school juniors take the ACT instead of the subject area tests. One South Mississippi school superintendent said he has been pushing the idea for years.
Right now, Mississippi students must pass Algebra I, Biology I, English II and U.S. History before they get their high school diploma. Starting this spring, all juniors in the Pascagoula School District will be adding another test to their list, the ACT.
"We want to get an authentic look at where our ACT average is, because typically, your best students take the ACT here. I'd like to see from top to bottom how we're doing," said Pascagoula Schools Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich.
He supports the idea of requiring students to take the ACT instead of the four subject area tests. A year ago, he wrote a letter to a local newspaper, explaining why he thinks the ACT is a better gauge of whether students are ready for college and the work force.
Rodolfich said the ACT is more comprehensive. For instance, the math portion includes concepts in Geometry and Trigonometry, not just Algebra I. He also said the ACT is more rigorous, and a single test could save schools a lot of time.
"When you take subject area tests, you're dedicating at least five days per semester in order to administer these tests. With an ACT, you're giving it one time or half a day during the course of the year. You can spend more time on classroom instruction," Rodolfich said.
Pascagoula High Senior Christina Parker is getting ready to take her fifth and final ACT this Saturday.
"You can improve your scores to go to college, because colleges look at the ACT and that's how you get your scholarships. So I think if we start young and you work your way up," said Parker.
"Now, you're focusing on a single test that brings in a wide range of curriculum, and the ACT is the test that pays. That's where your scholarship dollars come from, not state tests," said Rodolfich.
Rodolfich added that by using the ACT, Mississippi students can start preparing for the exam early, possibly at the elementary level.
"I think it's valid and reliable and I think it's the best tool that's out there right now," said Rodolfich.
According to the House Bill 767, ten school districts in the state would be chosen to participate in the two-year pilot program to study the pros and cons of the ACT exam. The bill passed the House Education Committee last week.
A spokeswoman for the governor's office told WLOX News it would cost about $500,000 a year to give the ACT to every high school junior in Mississippi. She said it costs more than $4.5 million to administer the subject area tests annually.