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Preparing for Success: ACT® for College Entrance and High School Accountability

Preparing for Success: ACT® for College Entrance and High School Accountability

Today, the ACT® exam is one of the nation’s leading college entry exams. Built to determine students’ academic readiness for the next step in their academic careers, it’s often taken by high school juniors and seniors. In recent years, however, the ACT exam has also taken a more prominent role in high school accountability plans in a handful of states (and the list is growing).

And, while it’s no secret there are a lot of options when it comes to preparing for this nationally recognized exam, navigating the appropriate plan for preparation can be challenging. Today, we’re taking a closer look at current state initiatives around the ACT exam, free test prep resources that are available, and online program options to help all students achieve success.

While most high schools use the test for academic advising and counseling, the implications of this exam may also drive additional decision-making. According to a 2017 Education Week article on state exam requirements, 25 states require students to take either the SAT® or ACT exam, and 12 use one of these exams for state accountability. With the ESSA rollout, requirements tied to the ACT exam are now pushed to the forefront even more. Just take a look at these three examples:

As of July 2016, Tennessee began requiring that all students enrolled in public school take either the ACT or SAT exam during their 11th grade year in order to receive a regular high school diploma. Accompanying this mandate, Tennessee has also included ACT scores as one of its ESSA student success indicators. The state’s plan outlines the criteria needed to become a “Ready Graduate,” and one of the pathway options is calculated by taking the percentage of students who earn a score of 21 or higher on the ACT exam multiplied by the district’s graduation rate. This measurement is intended to drive a statewide focus on readiness for postsecondary, military, and the workforce.

In the state of Louisiana, both the ACT and ACT WorkKeys® assessments are used as critical measures of success. Like Tennessee, Louisiana includes ACT assessments in its ESSA plan as a student success indicator and requires that all juniors have access to take the exams. Students’ highest results through their 12th grade year are then included in the school’s ACT/WorkKeys index, which is worth 25% of all high school accountability indicator scoring.

In Ohio, state law requires that districts and community schools administer the state-funded ACT or SAT exam to all 11th grade students in the spring semester of each school year. This measure also makes its way into its ESSA state accountability plan. High schools are evaluated on an innovative “Prepared for Success” component, which includes multiple measures of college and career readiness and is weighted 15% of their total measurement scale. Students are counted as “ready” if they earn a college-ready score on the ACT or SAT exam, earn an industry-recognized credential, or graduate with an honors diploma. Schools receive a bonus for students earning college credits via dual enrollment or Advanced Placement® courses or International Baccalaureate® programs.

When it comes to preparation, the ACT website offers a wealth of information to help students rise to the challenge. We’ve even compiled a few of our favorite resources here to help get you started.

It might sound obvious, but step one is to make sure that teachers and families are monitoring the registration windows and helping learners sign up for the test. Fortunately, the ACT exam is offered multiple times a year across the country, and taking the test early can allow a little extra cushion in case students need an additional try to give it their best. For those states that have opted to administer the test to all learners as an accountability measure, a testing schedule may be found on your state education agency’s site.

Study Guide (English and Spanish)
This printable resource will help students familiarize themselves with the instructions and format of the ACT exam. Tips for test taking are sprinkled throughout, and learners will even find practice tests embedded in this powerful tool.

Question of the Day
Set up an ACT profile or register for a weekly email blast to get access to thousands of free questions, including full explanations and tips for success. Taking this approach can help even the most hesitant and stressed-out test takers take preparation one day at a time.

Unpack Each Test Subject
For those familiar with the ACT test, you know it encompasses content across five subjects—English, math, reading, science, and writing. This online practice area allows students to review tips for each section of the test as well as answer five sets of interactive practice questions before revealing and reviewing answers.

Scoring for the ACT Test
This information hub includes all things related to scoring, including details about how the ACT test is scored and an online access point to view scores from recent tests. 

Beyond free resources and the individual preparation options that students and their families can take advantage of, finding a school or district partner that can support all students on their preparation journeys may be a critical component for your school program. Here at Edmentum, we offer several ACT exam prep options that are flexible enough to meet your unique implementation.

Study Island Practice and Preparation
Edmentum’s online practice and assessment program is focused on driving formative strategies in the classroom. Our program option for use with the ACT includes test-taking strategies and practice tests that mimic what students will experience on test day so that you can slip in additional reinforcements when test day is right around the corner.

Courseware Digital Curriculum
Our fully built course for use with the ACT exam offers a complete start-to-finish curriculum option to help deliver a powerful preparation program for students. This solution utilizes rigorous content, rich media, graphics, videos, and interactivity to provide an engaging academic approach.

Edmentum Test Packs with Prescriptions
These fixed-form assessments start by assessing gaps students may have when it comes to mastering all sections of the ACT assessment. After tests diagnose each learner’s strengths and weaknesses, students then receive an individualized prescription, or learning pathway, to help them excel. When time is in short supply, this personalized option may be just the ticket.

ACT® and WorkKeys® are registered trademarks of ACT, Inc.

madison.michell's picture
Madison Michell

Madison Michell has been a member of the Edmentum team since 2014 and currently serves as a Marketing Manager. As a former Kindergarten and 3rd grade teacher during her time as a Teach For America corps member, she believes education truly has the power to transform lives. She is passionate about connecting educators with online programs, best practices, and research that improve teaching and learning for today's students.