Fifty-One Schools Piloting ACT for all Public School Juniors

Tuesday, April 24, 2012
By Allyson Hagen

Fifty-One Schools Piloting ACT for all Public School Juniors
All Juniors to have Access to the ACT Test at No Cost in 2013

(Helena, MT) Approximately 3,100 Montana students from fifty-one schools will take the ACT Plus Writing test today at no cost to their families thanks to a partnership between the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education's (OCHE's) Montana GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program). In 2011, OCHE was awarded a seven-year, $28 million GEAR UP grant, a portion of which will cover the cost of every public high school junior in Montana having access to the ACT Plus Writing test.

"Providing the ACT to every junior will give us a complete picture of how well our K-12 public education system is preparing all students for life after high school and allow every Montana junior the opportunity to assess their college-readiness," said Superintendent Denise Juneau. "Access to higher education is critical not only for individuals, but for the future economic success of Montana."

Other states in the region have implemented statewide ACT testing for every junior, including Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota. Over time, states have found that more males, minority students, middle and lower-income students and first-generation students took the ACT and had the ability to assess their college-readiness. In addition, more minority and low-income students enrolled in college. For some students who didn't think about higher education as a possibility, taking the ACT made them aware of their potential for success in college.

“The Montana University System and Montana GEAR UP are pleased to partner with OPI to encourage all Montana students to see college as a desired path after high school graduation,” said Dr. Sylvia Moore, Deputy Commissioner at OCHE.  “By testing all students, the path to college becomes more equitable and is viewed as a cultural expectation in Montana.“   

Eighteen of the schools participating in the pilot are Montana GEAR UP schools, and the other 33 schools volunteered to participate. The schools represent a wide variety of geographic locations and sizes. Benefits of statewide ACT testing for all public school juniors include: the testing will occur during a school day, students do not have to drive to testing sites and there will be a make-up day on May 8 for those students unable to attend the April 24 testing day.

"We need to continue to break down barriers Montana students face when they are considering whether to enroll in higher education," said Superintendent Juneau. "Giving all students the chance to see if they are ready to take that next step into college or if they need to adjust their coursework during their senior year in order to get ready is going to pay off for our students and their families."

Among Montana’s 2011 high school graduates, 60%—a total of 6,037 students—took the ACT. In 2010, 58% of Montana's graduates took the ACT. As part of her Graduation Matters Montana initiative, during the 2011 Legislative Session Superintendent Juneau proposed allowing all high school juniors to take the ACT test by removing the testing fees students have to pay to participate.


The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement exam. It tests what students have actually learned in school, not their aptitude for learning. The ACT also measures what students need to know to be ready for first year credit-bearing college courses based on ACT College Readiness Standards. Every student's results can be tied directly to these consistent standards.

The cost for the ACT test without writing is $34. When combined with the optional ACT Writing Test, the total cost is $49.50.

A case study on the impact of statewide ACT testing in Illinois and Colorado can be found at:


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