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ACT could replace subject area testing...

ACT could replace subject area testing as Mississippi graduation requirement

By: Jeremy Pittari - April 8, 2024

Rep. Kent McCarty fields questions about SB 2689 on the floor of the House Thursday. Photo by Jeremy Pittari | Magnolia Tribune

  • Lawmakers look to work out their differences on SB 2689 in conference.

A bill that would replace end of year testing to determine graduation eligibility for Mississippi high schoolers, also known as subject area testing, with the ACT passed the floor of the House of Representatives with a vote of 103-6 late last week.

SB 2689 aims to replace the current system of subject area testing with a nationally recognized test, such as the ACT or ACT WorkKeys.

“This would change the testing requirement from the subject area testing we currently test to an ACT test that could be used as a benchmark for graduation,” House Education Committee Vice Chairman Kent McCarty (R) said while describing the bill on the floor Thursday. 

The bill’s author, State Senator Dennis DeBar (R), the Senate Education Committee Chairman, said the intent of the bill is to reduce the amount of time students spend taking tests throughout the school year. 

“For years, our schools have been inundated with testing,” DeBar said previously. 

During discussion on the House floor, a reverse repealer was adopted through an amendment, likely moving the legislation to conference between the two chambers. 

Several members of the House had concerns about the testing change. State Rep. Zakiya Summers (D) asked how using the ACT would be different as opposed to the current testing method.

“The subject area tests are more content focused, more knowledge based, and the ACT is more of a logic-based test,” Rep. McCarty explained. 

As discussion of the bill continued on the floor, Rep. McCarty was asked by Rep. Bryant Clark (D) if the minimum ACT graduation score had been determined. McCarty said the score threshold for graduation is expected to be set during discussions with the Mississippi Department of Education as the bill is further tweaked in conference with the Senate. 

Colleges have typically used the ACT as a benchmark for admissions, requiring students to earn a minimum score combined with a minimum high school Grade Point Average (GPA). Higher scores on the ACT can provide students with scholarship opportunities, at times providing a full tuition scholarship for the student to earn their college degree if the score is 30 or higher, depending on the institution. A perfect score on the ACT is 36.

Senator DeBar previously said that if the ACT becomes the standard, it will mean more students will practice the test, get higher scores and subsequently get more scholarship opportunities or job offers through the ACT WorkKeys. Some employers, including Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, recruit and hire students who earn a silver or higher on the ACT WorkKeys.

There is one subject area the ACT does not include that students are currently tested on – U.S. History. State Rep. Noah Sanford (R) and State Rep. Stacey Hobgood-Wilkes (R) asked how that subject area would be handled should the bill become law. Rep. McCarty said there would be no change to that subject under this bill. Since U.S. History is not on the ACT, the U.S. History test currently being administered would still be offered but the overall goal is to reduce the number of tests, McCarty clarified. 

“When we take this to conference, we want to make sure that we’re actually going to be eliminating some of the testing. One of the concerns that we did hear is that doing this may actually increase the number of tests that schools are making their students take, so we just want to make sure that we’re eliminating testing in passing this,” McCarty said. 

Currently, subject area tests scores count toward a school district’s total assessment score administered by the Mississippi Department of Education. As the bill moves through conference, how assessment scores and ACT results will correlate will be one of several topics discussed, McCarty added. 

About the Author(s)
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Jeremy Pittari

Jeremy Pittari is a lifelong resident of the Gulf Coast. Born and raised in Slidell, La., he moved to South Mississippi in the early 90s. Jeremy earned an associate in arts from Pearl River Community College and went on to attend the University of Southern Mississippi, where he earned a bachelor's of arts in journalism. A week after Hurricane Katrina, he started an internship as a reporter with the community newspaper in Pearl River County. After graduation, he accepted a full-time position at that news outlet where he covered the recovery process post Katrina in Pearl River and Hancock Counties. For nearly 17 years he wrote about local government, education, law enforcement, crime, business and a variety of other topics. Email Jeremy:
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