New bill seeks to encourage higher test scores


Nicole Schroeder

art by Joy Park
The end of the school year, although a time to celebrate for many students, brings with it many pressing thoughts, especially for upperclassmen. For many juniors, the pressure of upcoming AP tests adds to the stress from the previous weeks’ ACTs, and for seniors, graduation looms with the promise of a tassel moved and a diploma gained.
If House Bill 1946, better known as the Student Accountability Act, were to pass in the Missouri House of Representatives, however, those two worries could soon become much more similar than they are now. The bill, introduced by representative Bryan Spencer, proposes that each school district in the state establishes new policies to incentivize students in their participation and performance on standardized tests. Furthermore, the bill proposes that students who scored higher than the national or statewide averages on certain standardized tests receive record of these scores on their high school diplomas at graduation.
The goal of the Student Accountability Act, according to the bill’s text, is to “establish a policy designed to encourage students to give their best efforts on each portion of any statewide assessment,” in an effort to raise current district and statewide averages on tests such as the ACT or the ACT Compass. To senior Andrew Hopper, HB 1946 sounds like it would do just that.
“I think it’ll push people to do their best on standardized tests, which I know people don’t always do to their full potential,” Hopper said. “If the standardized test scores improve because people want to get a good mark on their diploma, then the standard for education will rise and the coursework will rise to meet that standard, which could help out our country’s supposed education problem — which is always a hot topic up for debate.”
Even for those students who are already motivated to get high scores on standardized tests, Hopper said the new bill could be seen as a reward for their hard work and dedication and could even be helpful later on as the student transitions from school into the workforce.
“I think that it would help the people who have good test scores get more academic opportunities, especially the ones who don’t apply to college right out of high school. When they go and show their diploma to a college or other educating body, the school will know that they’re smart and well taught,” Hopper said. “The only real downside I can see are where people begin to say that it’s unfair for people to be able to achieve something that other people are incapable of accomplishing for reasons such as mental handicaps. In my mind, though, it’s still not a bad thing to be able to show that you’re capable of achieving a high score on a standardized test.”
While some people believe HB 1946 will be helpful in improving test scores, others aren’t sure it will be so beneficial. Test preparation coordinator Gwen Struchtemeyer said she worries the proposal in the bill could create unneeded pressure on students to improve their test scores, solely for an extra mark on their diploma come graduation.
“The thing is the students who this speaks to already do their best to score well on tests and they’re rewarded in a variety of other ways, including scholarship money, getting into the school of their choice, getting into honors colleges within those schools and getting special perks that way because they have shown the discipline and effort to practice tests and do better on them,” Struchtemeyer said. “The truth is every kid sitting in commencement has accomplished something probably extraordinary, even if it wasn’t directly related to a test score.”
For most students, however, it is easy to see both positive and negative consequences that could happen if the bill were to pass.
“I think it is a good idea but at the same time it could be a bad thing,” freshman Lily Abraham said. “It would motivate people to do better, but … I think it could cause some problems because it could show [differences in] scores between two people.”
Struchtemeyer agrees with Abraham and said while she thinks the H.B. has good intentions with its proposal, it has the potential to cause too much of a divide between students who receive the extra accolades at graduation and those who didn’t score high enough on their standardized tests.
“By and large, knowing Rock Bridge’s standardized ACT score, we score well above the state of Missouri. So it seems to me what you’d have is you’d have a significant number — well over half — who would get such a notation on their diploma or in the commencement guide,” Struchtemeyer said. “There’s part of me that wonders how something like that would make the other 25 to 30 percent feel at graduation when, at graduation, we are celebrating every student’s achievement and a milestone in their lives.”
Whether or not the Student Accountability Act would be beneficial, however, Hopper said he believes there are many other issues he hopes are addressed in the coming years that would improve students’ performance in the classroom and their academic experience overall.
“I think legislature should make primary and secondary classes a bit more fast paced,” Hopper said. “I understand that some people have trouble keeping up with classes as it is, but I believe that if a standard is set for a class’s achievement, the class will move toward that standard in a way so that they can keep up.”