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Published: Tuesday, 3/23/2010

College? Maybe

OTHER Ohio school districts could learn a lesson from Cincinnati and Lorain about challenging students to think beyond minimum state standards. Those are the only two state districts that offer all high school juniors the opportunity to take an ACT college entrance exam.

Several reasons prompted the moves independent of any state mandate. Chief among them is wider exposure to what is expected of potentially college-bound students, whether or not juniors taking the exam intend to go to college.

With a year of high school left, the test gives students an idea of how they stack up in the eyes of colleges and universities. It helps them and their teachers target academic weaknesses in an exam more rigorous than the Ohio Graduation Test. Eventually, it is expected that Ohio will require a nationally standardized test for high school students under the education overhaul package enacted last year.

Cincinnati is jumping into universal college testing now, to give more students the benefit of taking the ACT without having to pay the $47 fee or travel to a central testing center on the weekend. School officials don't expect every student to attend college, but they hope taking the test will influence students and families who haven't seriously considered it.

About 35 U.S. school districts have adopted universal ACT testing without being required to do so. Some have altered their curricula to match the content gauged by the test. The goal in Ohio districts is not to hamstring teachers with more mandated material, but to raise the academic bar beyond merely a passing grade on the state graduation test.

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