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HB 1002: Require Every Junior to Take ACT, on State’s Dime

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!


  1. Richard Schriever 2023-12-20 08:15

    How many will be exempted because they tell their Super they will NOT be pursuing higher ed at all, OR their future locus of enrollment does not require an ACT score (any of SD’s public colleges and universities, for ex:)? If history is a guide – about 36% simply pursue no further education at all. So, if our higher ed institutions do not require ACT scores for entry – why again would SD taxpayers spend on them? OH, I see, to make sure all the smart people can more easily LEAVE the state. Got it.

  2. O 2023-12-20 08:45

    Why in addition to the silly Smarter Balance test? Why not as a substitute to that inferior option foist upon our juniors?

  3. Donald Pay 2023-12-20 08:49

    Uh, why do we have to have all this virtue signalling? It’s like some people think that piling on another bubble test shows how committed they are to education. Poppycock!!! Pile on the appropriations to education, not another dumb test.

    I’d have to know a lot more about what purpose the Legislature would have mandating this test for all high school juniors. There are already other tests administered in high school. Why are those tests not adequate? How about we just cancel high school and have the kid practice coloring in bubble tests all day, every day. If the Legislature takes away a test from those already administered, maybe I could see it,

    I’d be in favor of an amended bill that would pick up the tab for every student who wanted to take the ACT test. Otherwise, this bill should die quickly. Give other junior students who choose not to take the test the same amount to have a pizza party.

    The ACT is a national test geared mostly to college admission, although colleges are starting to abandon these bubble tests as a requirement for admission. As a result, ACT is being marketed as another school improvement mechanism. I’m not sure why the Legislature has to be involved as an extension of ACT’s marketing department.

  4. Rambler 2023-12-20 08:58

    Requiring those juniors to take another test that many see no benefit in for them will yield results of no value. High schools already must use all kinds of motivators now to keep some kids from simply coloring in the a bubble on the Smarter Balance tests. To have test scores of value, a score has to mean something to a kid. Telling a student their scores will be posted on the Has transcript means something only to those concerned with what’s on their transcripts. It may be more helpful to simply reimburse juniors and seniors who voluntarily take the exam. $93 is a lot of money for many families in our state.

  5. O 2023-12-20 09:07

    Sponsors of these bills are saying that the grades given by teachers mean nothing, indicate nothing, and other objective measurements are needed to measure student progress. It is yet another undermining of our public institutions; the actual data collected is almost irrelevant.

  6. DaveFN 2023-12-20 10:41

    What scores will be deemed necessary and sufficient to hold teachers accountable for their teaching and students accountable for their learning? What will be the consequences of substandard ACT performance for teachers, school districts, and students?

    Merely mandating a standardized test leaves such questions begging.

  7. Donald Pay 2023-12-20 11:18

    Tests, quizzes, papers, projects, lab notebooks and participation in class are generally good indicators of student achievement. I notice Nesiba is a co-sponsor. What does he use in his courses at Augie? Would he recommend the GRE be administered to all students to grade teaching at Augie? I hope he and the others explain themselves.

    What protections are given to assure the ACT scores of individual students won’t be sent to anyone but the student? Who owns the scores if the state is paying for them through the school district?

  8. Mark Mowry 2023-12-20 12:18

    I smell lobbyist reward for this nod to ACT.

  9. Dicta 2023-12-20 13:00

    You wear a fedora unironically.

  10. O 2023-12-20 13:27

    Donald, that is the point being questioned: can those test, quiz, project . . . scores handed out buy teachers be trusted? That is the fundamental question being asked by Smarter Balance et al. Teacher’s grades do not measure accountability in our legislator’s (our Right-leaning legislator’s) minds. Never mind the evidence continue to mount that our schools continue to perform well; never mind the accountability never seems to fall on the legislature for their role in management (or mismanagement); the mantra continues: undermine, undermine, undermine.

  11. SuperSweet 2023-12-20 18:03

    Of all the tests students take, the ACT is the most important at least for the college bound. It can determine admissions and scholarships. At my last school we offered study classes and had some of the best ACTs in the state.

  12. 96Tears 2023-12-20 18:04

    Why not be supportive of HB 1002 — at least for now with both eyes open? It’s a million times better than setting up an anonymous hotline to malign the professional character of state-run universities and their faculties, which goes in the books as the dumbest, damnest idea for higher education in South Dakota history. And it’s millions times better than letting Hillsdale rewrite curriculum to placate fascist Republicans — the second dumbest, damnest idea for education in state history.

    My advice is to keep your powder dry and listen to the testimony and debate over HB 1002. If there’s hostile agenda afoot, it will come out in the wash. Maybe this is Representative Venhuizen’s opening foray to be considered gubernatorial material.

  13. DaveFN 2023-12-20 21:20

    “The ACT is designed to measure college aptitude, not measure student achievement in any one state’s curriculum standards.”

    When HS student achievement is decoupled from an aptitude for college matriculation, a de facto disconnect is set into place leading to weakened academic standards and expectations —with the obvious consequence that fewer HS students will accede to a college education.

    Is this what is desired?

  14. DaveFN 2023-12-20 22:09

    Aptitude is the result of preparedness, and preparedness results in aptitude.

    The two go hand-in-hand. To decouple them is to do nothing but undermine the very premises of what education means.

  15. Richard Schriever 2023-12-21 08:01

    grudz, FWIW, a comparatively high percentage of Augie grads (like myself) do go on the various graduate studies and do take the GRE.

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