LIBA Testimony in Support of LB 930 – ACT Bill

Chairwoman Sullivan and Members of the Education Committee:

LIBA is a member organization comprised of more than 1,300 Lincoln businesses that advocates for issues that affect businesses and the communities in which they operate. With our members being both taxpayers and often parents, part of our focus, then, includes the work done by our local school districts and the success of our students. LIBA determines its focus and priorities through the work of committees, and our committee that deals with school issues is fortunate to have members who have served on their local school board, who have had careers in education as both teachers and administration, and who have worked for non-profits and in the private sector to shape curriculum and school standards. This diverse member-group has considered the benefits of replacing the NeSA test with the ACT for high school juniors and has become convinced that doing so would be good for our schools and our students.

At present, the ACT reports that 37 states employ some form of ACT testing for their students statewide,[1] whether it be the actual ACT college entrance exam or the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate.[2] The ACT also reports that 21 of those states offer free ACT testing to some or all students,[3] and 16 of those states require all students to take the ACT.[4] These states have recognized, as LIBA also believes, that there are a few key benefits from providing a consistent and recognized standard test such as the ACT.

First, and maybe the most compelling benefit from implementing this proposal, is the fact that it provides Nebraska high school students the opportunity to take a college entrance exam that they might not otherwise have ever even considered. Students from low income households, or those who perform well in school but come from homes with parents or siblings who did not attend college, may not believe that attending college is a reasonably attainable prospect. These students may not be able to afford, or may not prioritize, college entrance exams. Providing these tests to all students will open the door of opportunity to help them realize that a 2 or 4 year college is within their reach, and may even result in their becoming eligible for scholarships they otherwise would not have known about.

The ACT also serves to provide teachers and parents feedback on the college-readiness of their students, and gives them a meaningful and understandable measure of how each child is doing. Parents may not entirely understand raw scores their children attain on our state-specific NeSA tests. But parents, for the most part, understand that a composite score on the ACT of 33 is great, that a 20 is close to average, and that scholarship dollars and entry into select colleges require a 25 or better. Because these numbers are better understood, ACT scores provide a solid metric by which to assess the success our education system and our children’s individual progress.

Aside from being able to track and understand individual student performance, however, college readiness testing provides a metric for comparison between local schools and schools in other states. The pilot program that has allowed nearly all juniors in Lincoln Public Schools to take the ACT test has been a success because it has provided benchmarks for comparing schools in the LPS system with one another, while also providing a means of comparing LPS students’ performance with other students across the state and nation. Because of this program, we are now able to report that the average ACT score for LPS students of 20.7 with a college readiness rating of 29 percent is lower than both the national average score of 21.0 and a readiness rating of 28 percent. Simply knowing these numbers allows us to determine where we are in our education efforts.

We urge the members of this committee to approve LB 930.

 

[1] ACT and Statewide Testing, available online at https://www.act.org/stateservices/.

[2] The first states to launch ACT initiatives were Illinois and Colorado, who partnered with the company in 2001. Kentucky, Michigan, and Wyoming began using the ACT test in 2007, North Dakota and Tennessee in 2009, North Carolina in 2012, Hawaii, Louisiana and Montana in 2013, and Alabama and Utah in 2014. In 2015, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, and Wisconsin joined this group. See Growing number of states fund ACT college admission testing for 11th-grade students. Nick Anderson, The Washington Post (Aug. 20, 2014), available online at https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/growing-number-of-states-fund-act-college-admission-testing-for-11th-grade-students/2014/08/19/eb0edcba-27a7-11e4-86ca-6f03cbd15c1a_story.html.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Which states require the ACT? Full list and Advice. Alex Heimbach, Prep Scholar (Aug. 14, 2015), available online at http://blog.prepscholar.com/which-states-require-the-act-full-list-and-advice.