The ACT Test has long served as a college entrance exam. It has been a strong indicator of future 4 year and 2 year college success and become a rite of passage for students intending on continuing their education. That recently changed when the state of Wisconsin determined that the ACT test would become the high school state exam to be used on school report cards. Communities who traditionally have a high percentage of their graduating seniors attending post-secondary education have seen little impact on their high school report cards as a result of this shift. Districts that have lower percentages of students attending school after high school graduation are facing an uphill battle convincing all students to take the test seriously.
This is easily understood due to the rigor of the test. If it seems like it has no value to a student not intending to further their education why try. However, this mind set needs to change and we need everyone’s help to make sure every student knows how important it really is for their futre. Members of the BASD school board and I recently attended the Wisconsin State School Board Convention in Milwaukee. At the conference we listened to a presentation by Bill Daggett, a well known education expert who champions schools providing rigorous and relevant curriculum. The information he shared compelled me to write this column and share his thoughts on our nation’s future.
Mr. Daggett shared some eye opening data on where our world is headed at a pace that is hard to imagine. You are probably asking yourself what is causing this rapid change and why would it have any relevance to my child taking the ACT test? The answer to this question can be summed up with one word – Technology. The rapid changes in technology are accelerating change and will have a huge impact on our future job market. It is estimated that a significant percentage of jobs that are currently out there now will disappear in the next five to six years because they will be replaced with technology. Mr. Daggett explained we are entering a new industrial age where robotics and artificial intelligence will be able to replace many jobs. In other words, “If someone can write an algorithm for a task, the job will be gone.”
Let’s examine what that means for our students in the very near future as they enter the job market. It means that many jobs will be accomplished using technology; eliminating jobs that current students might be basing their future on. One example of this provided by Daggett was the KIA car plant near Atlanta. They turn out a new vehicle every 57 seconds with only 100 employees. That happens because most of the work on the assembly line is done by robotics. Most of the employees need a higher skill set because their job is not to build cars but to manage the technology that makes the cars. The robotic car plant is just one example. Amazon recently opened a food store in Seattle that requires no check outs at all. Everything is done with an app on a cell phone. Amazon is also projecting that drones will deliver about 40% of their deliveries in the next few years. Let’s not forget driverless cars and trucks. All of these things seemed like a long way off in the future but the rapid change in technology is making these things part of today.
The rate of change caused by technology is doubling our world’s knowledge every 12 to 13 months. This trend is expected to continue so that by 2030 it could be doubling every 12 hours. This rapid change will create difficulty for large organizations and companies to adapt. Entrepreneurs are more suited to a rapidly changing environment and will therefore be more successful. When you ponder these facts shared by Daggett it is easy to see that today’s student who does not want to continue their education after high school may find themselves in a quickly changing job market that requires a greater skill set to maintain a job.
So let’s go back to what this column is all about. Why take the ACT test? Given the future trends the answer is fairly obvious. Job trends for the future are clearly indicating a need for a better educated work force. It might seem okay today to have a post high school plan that includes immediately entering the job market but five years from now many jobs will no longer exist. That will mean they may end up back in school for more training. Of course if they did not get a good qualifying ACT test score in high school they will need to retake the test on their own. I would strongly urge taking it seriously now while the district is paying for it and providing study support to prepare for the test.
Why take the ACT test? Your future plans may depend on it.
(Information source: Bill Daggett and the International Center for Leadership in Education.)