Update 15:40 CST: Representative Venhuizen tells me to read Section 1. I do so and realize I read his bill wrong and reported incorrectly this morning! I apologize to all concerned and revise heavily here to more accurately explain HB 1002!
South Dakota Republicans don’t want to buy kids their school lunches. But some Republicans are lining up to buy every a big new test. Representative Tony Venhuizen (R-13/Sioux Falls) brings us House Bill 1002, which would require almost every high school junior to take the ACT and have the state foot the bill:
Each public school student, enrolled in grade eleven, shall, in addition to any other assessment or test required by this chapter, take the ACT, including the writing test. Each student’s ACT registration fee must be paid by the student’s school district. The Department of Education shall, with moneys appropriated in the General Appropriations Act, reimburse each school district for the registration fees.
A school district superintendent may exempt a student from taking the ACT, if doing so is not required by the student’s individualized education program plan or if other special circumstances exist [2024 House Bill 1002, Section 2, filed 2023.12.15].
The Department of Education counts 11,131 juniors in South Dakota’s high schools this year; the average count for grades kindergarten through 10 is 11,900. The registration fee for the ACT with writing is $93; spotting every junior an ACT will thus cost the state about $1.1 million a year.
Now I was going to complain that we might better spend that $1.1 million to pay for the first week of school breakfasts and lunches, an investment I suspect would do produce more educational benefits for our kids and usefulness for parents than any standardized test. I was also going to bemoan the fate of about 4,700 South Dakota students who currently don’t take the ACT (59% of South Dakota’s students took the ACT in the preceding school year) who would have another test added to their schedule by HB 1002
But then I reread Section1 and realized HB 1002 might actually save us some money! Section 1 strikes the requirement that juniors sit for standardized tests designed by the state to measure learning in the state curriculum standards. The juniors will take the ACT instead of the Smarter Balanced tests, so HB 1002 doesn’t make any high school junior take an additional test.
Thus, the first question any good wonk sitting on Senate Education will be, “How much does the 11th-grade Smarter Balanced test cost?” If the answer is, “More than $1.1 million,” then someone should move the previous question and immediately pass HB 1002 to the Senate floor before any education wonk can moan, “But what about the standards?” The ACT is designed to measure college aptitude, not measure student achievement in any one state’s curriculum standards. If we move juniors to a test of college aptitude instead of achievement on state standards, we strike a big blow against the relevance of state-imposed curriculum standards. And the less importance we place on those standards, the better teachers will be able to ignore the garbage pile of political posturing that Governor Noem and Hillsdale College are trying to impose on our kids via the new, ideological, and impractical social studies standards. If we can nudge schools away from the state standards (which have only served to crowd out good instruction in a variety of fields) and save money to boot, then we should all get behind House Bill 1002!