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Illinois debates continuing free ACT test

Published: Monday, April 14, 2014 11:00 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 14, 2014 8:36 p.m. CDT
In this Tuesday, April 1, 2014 photo, Joe Moore talks about the upcoming ACT Assessment test at his home in Springfield. Joe's mother, Donna Moore, a school board member in Springfield’s High School district and a mother of 7 children, ages 24 to 9, says her own children have largely viewed the state-paid ACT tests as just a practice before taking the test several more times. As Illinois schools shift to a new set of state mandated exams next year, the state board of education plans to keep asking schools to give the ACT, using the test to gauge college readiness for high school juniors. But for the first time in more than a decade, the State Board of Education may only provide the test to low-income students for free next year, requiring more well-off families to shoulder the cost of the five-subject, $52.50 exam. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

DEKALB (AP) — Thousands of high school junior students are preparing for this year's ACT as Illinois lawmakers consider whether to continue paying for them to take the college readiness exam.

Nearly 143,000 Illinois juniors took the test last year, which is given to students each April for free as part of two-day testing that's been a graduation requirement from the state since 2002.

But state education officials are now debating whether to pass along the $52.50 exam fees to students and their families as a way to save money.

"It seems like the state is devaluing the ACT while colleges see value in it," said Joe Burgess is superintendent of Genoa-Kingston School District 424. "I feel like we're caught in the middle."

State board officials estimate it will cost $14 million for all high school juniors to take the ACT test next year, which they want to keep even though it is scheduled to be phased out with the implementation of other exams. But they are considering providing the test free only to low-income students and requiring other families to shoulder the $52.50 cost next year.

By keeping the ACT and adding new exams at the elementary and high school levels, the cost of state testing would total $54 million next year, double this year's $27 million.

Many college-bound students take the ACT separately out of school — for an existing fee — and use their scores on school applications, or to practice for the school-issued exam.

Alyssa Hermann is a junior from DeKalb High School who took the test in December to prepare for this month's free exam at school, according to a report by The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle.

"I feel like you have to take it really seriously because all the colleges look at it," she said.

Dylan Moore is spending time with his classmates at Sandwich High School studying for the test, which he says is vitally important to his future.

"It's the biggest test of your life - other than your driver's test," Moore said.

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