By Mike Wilkinson

Contributing Writer

In 2011, ACT (American College Testing) became the more widely taken aptitude test for high school students wanting to go onto college, replacing in popularity the SAT (Standardized Aptitude Test).

Beginning in April, at least in Minnesota, the ACT will widen the gap as new state mandates require that all high school juniors in public school districts take the test whether or not they have desires to go on to college after they graduate. The ACT will become part of the process to determine each child’s proficiencies in subjects such as reading and math.

The ACT will be free to the students.

The SAT is the older of the two tests. It was first introduced in 1926, whereas the ACT began in 1959. Today, while in Minnesota the ACT will soon be free, the SAT will cost each student $52.50.

The ACT tests in the areas of English, math, reading and science.

“We actually began to offer the ACT free to all of our students four years ago, said Mary Roden, assistant director of assessment for Mounds View Public Schools.

She added that the Mounds View Schools Education Foundation helped fund the effort to defray the administrative costs.

Imina Oftedahl, director of educational services for Fridley Public Schools, said her district – like all districts in the state – will give the test during a regular school day. Previously, the ACT was taken off-site at a location such as a community college, where students from many districts gathered and usually on a Saturday.

Duane Berkas, the director of teaching and learning for Columbia Heights Public Schools, said both the ACT and SAT take roughly a half day to complete. The ACT score range is from 1 to 35, whereas the SAT has two score ranges of 1 to 800 each for math and language arts, for a total maximum score of 1600.

“The ACT has become the more popular test in the Midwest, the South, the Rocky Mountain States and West Coat,” he added. “However, out East, the SAT still remains the preferred test for high school kids.”

Private and parochial schools are not held to the same mandates by the state of Minnesota as are public schools. Nevertheless, because the ACT is now free, all of them undoubtedly will partake in the new testing program.

“We will be offering it to our juniors in April of 2016,” said Cheri Broadhead, principal of Totino-Grace High School in Fridley.

The free test and the requirement that it be used to measure proficiency and determine graduation standards stems from action taken during last year’s session of the state legislature. Many educators testified in favor of the new approach and supported the argument that the test be free.

Oftedahl said the Fridley school district will provide further testing, evaluation and instructional support for students who do not score well on the ACT.

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