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Minnesota Students Required to Take ACT, Costing State Millions

Updated: 08/20/2014 6:34 PM
Created: 08/20/2014 6:33 PM KSTP.com
By: Jennifer Ann Wilson

Taking the ACT college admission test will now be a graduation requirement for all Minnesota students. 

In the past, students were required to take an exit exam and achieve a certain score in order to graduate, but that test isn't recognized by colleges. Moving forward, the ACT will replace the old exit exam.

“We think it's a better assessment system and kids are motivated to take these tests and we just believe that it’s going to be a better system in the future that aligns to higher education,” said Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.

But here's where some people see a problem: No matter how high or low their scores are students can graduate as long as they take the ACT.

"Every other state is raising standards, raising the bar. In Minnesota now, you could perform very badly and you're still going to get a high school diploma. If you're an employer in Minnesota that's not good because you have no idea if these kids are competent when they are coming to work for you,” said Minnesota Business Partnership’s Executive Director Charlie Weaver.

He also worries some students won’t take the ACT seriously if there isn’t a requirement to perform well.

“But if the teacher says, ‘You’ve got to get a 35 on this thing in order to get your diploma; otherwise you'll take 12th grade over again.’ That’s serious right? No one wants to do 12th grade over again,” he said.

Cassellius says requiring students to take the ACT in order to graduate is about changing mindsets.

“More kids will be taking it; more kids will think that they're college bound. More kids will have that expectation.  More adults in their lives are saying ‘you can do it’. The first time the state’s ever given a college entrance exam and required it … I think that’s going to be a huge gap changer for us,” he said.

The State of Minnesota is expecting to pay $13.5 million over the next four years. That includes practice exams in eight and 10th grade, administered in the Fall, as well the real ACT 11th graders will now take in the Spring.

Students who are planning on going to college will likely take the ACT again their senior year to try to improve their scores from the year before. That will be on their own dime. So the state is in essence paying for ACT preparation.


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