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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Letter: Kansas wrong to remove ACT practice test

  • In addition to his constant reminder to me to always "measure twice and cut once," my father also drilled into me that "practice makes perfect."
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  • To the editor:
    In addition to his constant reminder to me to always "measure twice and cut once," my father also drilled into me that "practice makes perfect."
    This old adage is true in one fashion or another no matter your profession.
    Athletes practice their sport, soldiers practice skills and rehearse missions, pilots practice flying, student teachers do a 'practicum' (practice) before taking over a classroom, and young trades workers are apprenticed to a journeyman for "practice" before receiving their own full license. Even businesses conduct a version of practicing though market analysis before they put out a new product or develop plans to build a new factory.
    Everyone seems to have embraced the concept of "practice" – everyone except the government of the state of Kansas – who in its infinite, budget-cutting wisdom did not see fit to continue funding the program (grant) that allowed high schools in the state to administer the ACT's PLAN test (a prep for the actual ACT exam) to all 10th graders. Apparently, "practicing" a year earlier for a college entrance exam was not deemed a good "plan" by the state. Given that Kansas was recently ranked in the bottom third of the nation for ACT averages (2011-2012 data) with a flat average over the past several years, one might be inclined to interpret the data as the PLAN having failed. I would counter that perhaps it was the PLAN (and practice) keeping the state's average afloat.
    To quote ACT literature, "typically administered in the 10th grade, PLAN provides students with an early indication of how their educational progress relates to their post-high school educational and career plans. It helps students and teachers work together to make adjustments to coursework and curriculum to prepare students for college and careers."
    To me, that seems like an essential tool for both students and teachers. Yet, once again it seems the state has thrown the baby out with the bathwater without exploring other options and thus denied students a chance for more preparatory practice. You see, the grant money from the state (though limited and on a first-come, first-served basis) especially benefited students from lower-income families who might not have been able to afford the test fee. Yet it also benefited my family, and I could easily have paid for my son to take the test. Why was this an "all or nothing" proposition? Could the state have simply done some research (practice) and arrived at a lower funding level coupled with a means level for those who could pay? The state's narrow-sighted approach ended up harming all students because this is a school-administered test; you can't just sign-up, pay your money, and take it online.
    As a parent, I say, "State of Kansas government, you get a "D" on this assignment. Go back to your seat, practice some more, and come up with a better plan."
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