Mandatory ACT Testing

On the 3rd and 4th of this past March, Brookfield Central juniors took the standardized ACT test as part of a new requirement that all schools in Wisconsin assess their 11th grade students using the ACT. This added Wisconsin to the list of less than one-third of all US states that have decided to assess their students with the ACT. On the other hand, the Chicago region in neighboring state Illinois decided to remove their ACT testing requirement this same year, and perhaps they have good reasons to do so.

Students who were planning on taking a different test, such as the SAT, in place of the ACT, or who were otherwise not planning on taking the test may find themselves in a bind. It adds to the plethora of assignments and assessments many students no doubt have to make time for, and for several students thoroughly preparing for the ACT is implausible or, in some cases, not even a valid option to consider. Many of the students who were not planning on taking the ACT, such as those who are not preparing for college, will find themselves unnecessarily burdened with preparing for an unnecessary test. Though it appears to be a free opportunity, for many it ends up getting in the way of things. The fact that taking the test eats up nearly all of two full school days does not help this, either.

This also sheds light on a different issue with mandatory testing. Students will get a score for their test regardless of whether they wanted to take it in the first place. Regardless of whether the ACT is regarded as an accurate and reliable method of testing someone’s learning abilities, in a society that likes to define itself with numbers, a standardized test score will stick out as a prominent and commonly used marker. This means that before the test, students will feel pressured to try and do well, regardless of whether they need to or not, and after the test, any bad scores will negatively affect a student’s self-judgment.

The ACT also inconveniences students that were actually planning to take it. Requiring the ACT test on an inflexible date for all the students is rather unfavorable in comparison to students deciding to take it on their own. The students should be able to base their preferred testing date around their plans for test preparations, not the other way around. This can make it difficult and frustrating for students to take full advantage of the opportunity provided by the state. And just as Chicago, after fourteen years of required ACT tests, has removed the requirement, perhaps Wisconsin should reconsider the decision as well.