Wednesday is ACT Exam Day at Des Moines Public Schools

actACT Day: it’s becoming an annual tradition at Des Moines Public Schools as the day when hundreds of high school juniors take – free of charge – the ACT college entrance exam.

This is the seventh year DMPS has been offering the ACT exam to all juniors. Last year, a record number 1,732 juniors, or close to 90 percent of the class, took advantage of the opportunity, up from 1,672 students the year before.

The benefits are becoming evident. Enrollment in Advanced Placement and other college preparatory courses has increased dramatically. Students who otherwise may not have considered college are learning they have what it takes. Colleges and universities open a dialogue with students, encouraging them to be college-ready and begin considering career options. And students are given a free shot at a test that can have a direct and positive impact on their futures.

DMPS is the first school district in Iowa to provide every junior the opportunity to take a college entrance exam. Since then, this approach has been one part of the debate over education reform (last year Governor Branstad proposed making a college entrance exam mandatory for high school juniors. Just last week, Iowa Department of Education director Jason Glass visited Roosevelt High School to take a practice ACT test and show his support for the idea.

Iowa’s state universities currently require an ACT score as part of the admission process. For low income students, first generation college-goers and/or immigrant students, this requirement can create a barrier that may close the door to a college education. Providing the ACT to all juniors begins the application process early while the support of school counselors, teachers and administrators is easily accessed.

While not every student will go to college, every student must be adequately prepared for post-secondary education. No matter what career a student decides to pursue after high school, critical thinking skills, mathematical reasoning and higher levels of reading comprehension are the standards for the 21st century workforce.

Although some people are concerned about a short-term decline for Iowa in the ACT rankings when the pool of test-takers is expanded, that is more than offset by the improved quality of life for all Iowans that will result from students better prepared for their futures through post-secondary education opportunities.

Des Moines Public Schools is proud to have been first in making this opportunity available to all of our students.

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