On Oct. 16, students at East and West high schools grabbed their sharpened No. 2 pencils, sat at tables in the school cafeterias and at the woman's club, and tested their futures.
The students either took tests in preparation for the ACT, took tests to plan their high school courses or they spoke with advisers about which college or trade they were planning for after high school.
While the tests and advisory aspects were nothing new, it was the second time they had a half-day dedicated to their futures. The testing began at 8 a.m. and ran until 11:30 a.m.
Ease through practice
There were two main reasons to designate the testing day. One, according to West guidance counselor Brian Hoffman, is that there is such a high volume of students taking tests — every grade participates — that it's easier for the school to organize a day. The other is to prepare them for a standardized test-taking environment.
The stress can be high for students, Hoffman said, adding that familiarizing students with the process can ease the pressure.
On test-taking day, there are no ringing bells. There are no students shuffling down the hallways and there are no announcements over the loudspeaker.
Freshmen take the ACT Explore test, which helps them explore their strengths and weaknesses in math, reading, science and English. The test can determine which classes students take in high school, whether they go to college and even which career they pursue.
Sophomores take a similar test, the ACT Plan. The test again helps students plan classes, see their strengths and eventually plan their future. Both result in data that is used by teachers to help shape curriculum.
Juniors and seniors have more options. They can take the practice ACT, the practice SAT or the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Help with college application applications, college visits and trade industry visits are offered for seniors only.
"This isn't just about college admission," Hoffman said. "This is really about us helping to prepare kids for life after post-secondary education or life after high school for those kids who aren't necessarily going off to college."
The work environment after high school is different, Hoffman said. The pressure to attend college is much higher and there is higher competition for admission.
"There weren't things back in my day like Advanced Placement classes, and now we have high-stakes testing for Advanced Placement classes to determine whether kids get college credit," he said.
The ACT test can determine whether a student is accepted to a college and what types of scholarships the student will be eligible to receive. The ACT is a multiple-choice test comprising of English, mathematics, reading, science and an optional writing test. Test-takers have more than three hours to take the 215-question test and can take it multiple times.
West guidance counselor Shannon Enloe said, "I think they (students) feel a lot of pressure. I don't know if the reality of that pressure is as daunting as some of them make it."
Hoffman added that manufacturing-sector jobs have changed as well in that they need employees with more than high school diplomas. Those students, he said, will need some extra skills and strong math and science backgrounds.
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