Every public high school junior in Kansas will be able to take the ACT college entrance exam and WorkKeys assessments for free next school year, state education officials announced Tuesday.
Kansas becomes the 19th state to pay for the ACT exam for all 11th-graders statewide. The exam, which gauges a student’s readiness for success in college, will be administered statewide during the school day on Feb. 20.
“We’re excited about it,” said Denise Kahler, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Education. “We think it’s a great opportunity for our kids, and we’re very appreciative of the Legislature for allotting funding for us and providing this for our students.”
The ACT WorkKeys assessments measure essential workplace skills, such as mathematical reasoning, comprehending work-related reading materials and using information from charts, diagrams and other sources. Every Kansas junior will have the chance to take those assessments and potentially earn the WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate on Feb. 21.
The free tests are being financed with additional funding from the Kansas Legislature as part of its new school finance plan, Kahler said.
Some Kansas school districts have provided a free ACT exam for students. The ACT also waives some fees for students who can demonstrate an economic need.
For the most part, though, the more than 1.8 million students who take the ACT exam each year register on their own to take the test on Saturdays. They pay about $50 for the exam, which covers English, math, reading and science, plus $16.50 if they want an optional writing assessment. States that contract with the ACT pay a reduced rate.
State officials said they will recommend but not require that all public school juniors — as well as seniors who didn’t take the ACT or WorkKeys assessments last school year — take both tests.
Last year, Kansas students’ scores on the ACT exam fell to their lowest point in five years.
The percentage of Kansas high school graduates who took the ACT and scored at the college-ready benchmark on all four subjects dropped to 29 percent in 2017, down from 32 percent in 2013 and the lowest since 2012. The number remains above the national average of 27 percent.
The average composite ACT score for Kansas last year was 21.7 — slightly higher than the national average of 21.