The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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April 18, 2013

Clinton aims for 100% ACT participation rate

CLINTON — Standardized tests make Sara Nickles uneasy, but the Clinton High School junior plans to go into elementary education.

Meaning like it or not, standardized tests — such as the ACT — won't disappear from her list of things to do anytime soon.

"I get test anxiety," she said. "But the ACT prep course I took helped. At least now I realize what the test will be like."

Nickles is one of more than 206 CHS juniors that next Tuesday will take the ACT, a standardized test for high school achievement and college admissions in the United States.

The Clinton School District leads the way as one of the first school districts in Iowa to ensure most students take the ACT in order to bolster students' belief that they can succeed beyond high school.

While Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is pushing for students to take the ACT, Iowa does not yet require districts to offer the test or cover the $35 cost. Instead, students must pay for the test themselves and also arrange to take the roughly four-hour long exam on a Saturday at a separate testing location.

A handful of years ago, the Clinton School District decided to cover the costs of the test as well as make all the registration and test day arrangements in order to ease the burden for students and ensure most, if not all, take it.

"The ACT and the FAFSA, the financial-aid piece, are the two biggest road blocks to kids going to college. So we're getting rid of one road block," Sue Schrader, Department Chairwoman of Counseling for Clinton High School, said.

In 2012, Iowa had a 63 percent participation rate for the test. Clinton had an 80 percent participation rate in 2012. Before requiring all juniors take the test, that rate was around 45 percent. The district was the second in the state to have most students in the class of 2012 tested, according to the Condition of Education Report issued by the Iowa Department of Education earlier this year. The only other was the Des Moines School District.

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