Free ACT test for juniors looks promising


On April 23, all juniors will be given the ACT, a nationally-recognized college readiness test, free of charge at school. This will be the first time the school has offered such an opportunity to students.

Since the state of Texas changed the end-of-course exam system from TAKS to STAAR beginning with the Class of 2015, districts have had to come up with measurements for college readiness for their students.

“Our main goal right now is to establish some norms for Westlake,” career counselor Jeff Pilchiek said. “We give the Explore test to eighth graders, and in 10th grade we give the Plan, so we thought that for 11th grade the ACT would be the best thing. [The tests are] three progressions of testing from a normed company that are similar.”

The ACT, along with the SAT, is a college entrance exam that tests English, reading, writing, math and, unlike the SAT, science.

“I believe the ACT is a good product and that our students do well on it,” Pilchiek said. “It’s not the most popular of the two, but it’s growing in popularity in the state and [at Westlake]. We have such a strong science department here, so how can our students not do well at the science [section]?”

The test’s cost, which is $52.50 per student, will be entirely covered by the school district — roughly $35,000 total. In an effort to help offset the cost and continue the program in the future, students can order up to four of their scores from the test to be sent to colleges of their choice for $10 each until March 31.

“We are very much encouraging students and parents to purchase those scores to help this program continue,” Pilchiek said. “I think the community will like the results we get from it, and I’m hoping the district and school board will agree that this is something we can continue in the future.”

Instead of juniors having to give up a Saturday morning to take the test, this opportunity allows them to take it during the first half of a regular school day.

“Research says that when students test at their own high schools in a comfortable environment, the results are always more favorable,” Pilchiek said. “This will give every student an opportunity to test with their peers, which I think is another hidden benefit to the score.”

Overall, having the ACT offered for free during a school day looks likely to be a great advantage to both students and parents.

“I’m happy because I won’t have to wake up early on a Saturday morning now,” junior Jaime Nguyen said. “I think it’s really convenient that the school is providing us with a free ACT.”