More high school students are taking a college readiness test now that it is free.
In Billings, all of School District 2’s 1,100 juniors took the ACT Writing Plus test, nearly 400 more than took it the year before.
And of all the SD2 juniors who completed the test, 76 more than last time scored 20 points or more. A perfect score is 36.
“It’s a great thing,” said SD2 superintendent Terry Bouck. “They need to have that opportunity to see where they’re at” in terms of being ready for college.
Of all the SD2 juniors who took the test, 23 percent met or exceeded the benchmarks that qualify a student as college-ready. The state average was 20 percent.
Bouck expects those numbers to rise. As students become accustomed to taking the test and they get more practice at it, the scores will go up.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau said that statewide almost 3,000 more students took the ACT Plus Writing test this spring. In total, 9,000 public high school juniors took the test.
“The more students take it … the more we’ll see just a dramatic increase in students going to college,” she said.
It’s important for Montana high-schoolers to know that college is an option, Juneau said. To stay competitive after high school, they need to have some kind of post-secondary education lined up.
“We need to continue to break down the barriers Montana students face when they are considering whether to enroll in higher education,” she said.
Already Wyoming, North Dakota and Colorado require all high school juniors to take the ACT.
The increase of Montana juniors participating also made more students eligible for awards.
The state reported that nearly 1,000 more students qualified for the state’s “Best and Brightest” scholarship. And roughly 500 more are eligible for full admission into one of Montana’s four-year colleges.
Juneau said that providing a free test for all juniors is opening more opportunities for Montana students.
The free test is the result of a federal grant given to the state’s college system. Students who take the test ordinarily must pay a fee of $52.20.