Every Public School Junior Taking the ACT Today at No Cost to Their Families

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
By Allyson Hagen

Every Public School Junior Offered the Opportunity to Take the ACT at No Cost to their Families

(Helena, MT) Nearly 10,000 public school juniors will take the ACT Plus Writing test on Tuesday, April 23 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 for the next five years.

"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.

Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian said the Montana University System is committed to increasing the number of college degrees and completions in Montana.

"Taking the ACT test as a high school junior is an important step to knowing if you are ready for college," Christian said. "These test results can help students and their families plan and prepare, with a better chance for student success in college."

Christian said statewide testing for high school juniors ultimately helps Montana's economy. "Montana businesses rely on a skilled workforce," he said. "Helping all high school juniors assess their college readiness is an important step to building a ready workforce in Montana."   

Christian said GEAR UP encourages and supports students to set high academic expectations, stay in school, study hard and take appropriate courses to prepare for college level studies.

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 7 for those students unable to attend the April 23 testing day. Students can also send their test results to as many as four colleges at no cost.

"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 2012 high school graduates, 61 percent—a total of 6,024 students—took the ACT. In 2011, 60 percent 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. The cost for ACT Plus Writing in Montana will be $47.50 per student.

A case study on the impact of statewide ACT testing in Illinois and Colorado can be found at: http://www.act.org/research/policymakers/pdf/coil_benefits.pdf.


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