Oklahoma Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announces all High School Juniors can take ACT

OKLAHOMA CITY — Flanked by representatives of K-12 education, higher education, CareerTech, and business and industry at a news conference, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister on Wedneday (August 19)  announced a pilot program giving Oklahoma’s 11th-grade students this school year an opportunity to take the ACT exam.

Hofmeister said the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) will pick up the costs for all public high school juniors to take the college-entrance exam. School districts may opt-in to this voluntary program. The result could provide the opportunity for as many as 22,000 more juniors who otherwise might never have had access to take the ACT.

“This is a straightforward but powerful statement that all Oklahomans should have a chance to pursue college as a potential future,” said Hofmeister.

“This pilot also opens the door for all juniors to have the opportunity to begin earning college credit while still in high school. Our state currently lags other states in the number of students concurrently enrolled.

“A high school diploma alone is no longer sufficient in today’s highly competitive marketplace. As Gov. Fallin has noted in her ‘Oklahoma Works’ initiative, by 2020 more than 60 percent of Oklahoma jobs will require much more than a high school diploma. Young people deserve an opportunity to pursue the American Dream, and in most cases that means a pathway to college or career strategies.

“This opportunity can make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of young people who would not otherwise entertain college as a possible future.”

Hofmeister added that the ACT will provide crucial information about Oklahoma students’ performance as compared to other states in which the test is administered statewide.

“Educators need good, solid information in order to know how best to achieve higher student outcomes,” said Hofmeister.

Twenty-one other states last year administered the ACT to all juniors, including: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Some state leaders praised Oklahoma’s plan, which OSDE is funding through $1.5 million budgeted for assessments.

“This initiative … serves as an important opportunity for college success. The ACT assessment helps teachers and families determine a student’s academic readiness for postsecondary education. Oklahoma public higher education strongly supports efforts that strengthen college readiness, which is a critically important element of our Complete College America degree completion initiative,” said Glen D. Johnson, state Chancellor for Higher Education.
“ACT scores in English, mathematics, reading and science are an important indicator of a student’s preparation for college-level work, and our state system colleges and universities use ACT assessment results to make admission, guidance and placement decisions for incoming students.”

“Providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the workforce is essential for Oklahoma’s economy to strive,” Marcie Mack, state director of Oklahoma CareerTech. “Students’ success is vital to our future, and CareerTech encourages any initiative that enriches students’ abilities to obtain wealth-generating jobs and provide the workforce that Oklahoma companies need to thrive.”

“This program is a tremendous opportunity for thousands of high school students who might not otherwise be able to take the ACT,” said state Senate Education Committee chairman John Ford. Sen. Ford has supported use of the ACT as a replacement for the End-of-Instruction (EOI) test.

 “I commend the state schools superintendent for taking this bold step on behalf of Oklahoma’s high school juniors.”
State Board of Education member Bob Ross lauded the program.

By offering the ACT to all Oklahoma juniors in high school, this pilot program opens the door to college to countless students and families,” said Ross, who is president and CEO of the Inasmuch Foundation. “Anything we can do make college more attainable is incredibly valuable for all Oklahomans, and I congratulate everyone who worked to make it a reality.”

His sentiments were echoed by a fellow Board of Education member, Gen. Lee Baxter.

“The students of Oklahoma are our top priority,” he said. “By allowing every junior in the state the chance to take the ACT, we are opening doors some students may have never had the opportunity to see behind. I applaud Superintendent Hofmeister for putting this pilot program into action and look forward to seeing positive results in the future.”

Last year, about 80 percent of Oklahoma’s graduating public high school seniors took the ACT. For juniors, a little more than half — 22,500 — participated in the exam.

All of Oklahoma colleges and universities have used the ACT for more than 55 years.
Under Hofmeister’s plan, for the 2015-16 school year the ACT could be available to upwards of 22,000 additional students.

“ACT’s relationship with Oklahoma is one of the longest and most productive state partnerships in which we engage,” said Jon Erickson, president of ACT.

“I applaud Superintendent Hofmeister and the leaders of the State of Oklahoma for having the vision to create this pilot program. ACT continues to be a proud partner with the state, and all of us at ACT look forward to serving the students, parents and teachers of Oklahoma through this new program.”

A survey by the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration over a three-day period found that 400 school districts were interested in taking part in the initiative.

The superintendents of Oklahoma’s two largest school districts said this program is great news for their respective students.

“I applaud this effort by state Superintendent Hofmeister and the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Offering the ACT for free to all juniors in Oklahoma will provide invaluable information on individual students and districts; this information is crucial as we retool our curriculum standards to meet the needs of all students,” said Rob Neu, superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools.

“It’s also a benefit to families who want their children to have a successful future after high school; families shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they can afford to take the ACT, this pilot program will lift that financial burden and allow students to focus on this very important achievement test.”

“We are grateful to the state of Oklahoma for providing the ACT exam to our 11th graders through this pilot program,” said Superintendent Deborah A. Gist of Tulsa Public Schools. “Experiencing the ACT is an important opportunity for all students, and this pilot will increase equity, as it will be available to all high school juniors this school year. We welcome the opportunity to use a highly-regarded and widely-used measure of college and career readiness to provide all kids with access to a better future.”

The agency will notify districts within several weeks how they can opt-in to the program.