State funding removed for the ACT in-school testing option

Emma Bailey, page editor

Every spring, Edina High School holds an in-school ACT testing session for all juniors in order to give students more experience with taking standardized tests—and to abide by state law, which dictates that public schools must offer an in-school ACT testing session for students. In the past, this test has been funded by the state in order to ensure that all students can take advantage of the opportunity. However, this year, students will have to pay a fee of over $60 in order to take the ACT during school this April.

In the 2015-16 school year, state funding for the ACT was made private by the Minnesota Department of Education, meaning that schools would need to apply for testing reimbursement. For the 2018 test, state funding was removed altogether, leaving administrators, students, and families in a tight spot.

EHS students have long been under the impression that in order to graduate, they must complete the ACT exam. In light of the recent rollback of the free in-school testing option,  students are confused about whether or not the ACT remains a graduation requirement. Edina administrators that Zephyrus contacted stated that the ACT has not been a graduation requirement for years, but were unable to clarify on the time of the change.

Nevertheless, the ACT is an application requirement for the majority of colleges in the US. The fact that students and their families now have to pay for the exam out of their own pockets could potentially hinder student participation in the ACT and, by extension, some students’ college prospects.

Offering an in-school ACT is required by the state with good reason. Historically, students perform much better on the in-school ACT than when taking the ACT in a traditional setting. Being surrounded by peers in a familiar environment is much less stressful than being in the usual high-stakes atmosphere that is associated with the ACT. EHS’s hosting of the ACT has served as an excellent opportunity for students to take the test.

While Edina and many surrounding suburbs in Minnesota have a reputation for their wealth, not all families can afford to pay or have budgeted out $60 for five hours of standardized testing. And for families with more than one child in their junior year, paying for multiple ACTs is especially difficult. “My parents were pretty upset when they heard about [the change]. They made me pay for half,” said a junior at EHS who would like to remain anonymous. Students whose families might not fit the wealthy Edina stereotype often feel uncomfortable expressing financial stress.

Upon notifying students of the test, Jeff Marshall, Dean of Students at EHS, assured the availability and anonymity in financial aid requests and stated that all students were free to stop by the main office or send him an email to have their funding covered by Jan. 26, the registration deadline. However, as stated by Marshall, the default is that “unfortunately, students are going to have to pay for it this year.”

Students who have already taken the ACT and are pleased with their score can opt out of the test and instead stay home on the test date. For students who plan to take the test, the school will begin offering optional after-school tutoring. According to Marshall, “it will [cost] considerably less than any sort of outside or private resource company.”