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Reporter, Erica Courtney

Until this year, spring in most school districts across the state was synonymous with NeSA testing.  Since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2001, Nebraska has administered the NeSA standardized test to every high school junior across the state to ensure students meet state education requirements. This year, however, the Nebraska Department of Education has decided to end all NeSA testing at the high school level and replace the test with one that may be more beneficial to a high schooler’s future.

According to the Omaha World Herald, in September of 2016, the Nebraska State Board of Education voted unanimously to have all public high school juniors take the ACT. This January, Elkhorn South juniors experienced the new standardized testing for the first time, as the district went to great lengths to provide a seamless practice ACT experience.

“It was really long, but it was nice to do [the test] again. I haven’t taken the ACT since October, so I liked that I had the opportunity to take it again before April,” junior Emily Foster said.

While the test in January was a practice exam, on April 19th, the juniors will be able to take the actual ACT at school for free. That Wednesday, juniors will come to school prepared to take the exam as if they were taking it on a normally scheduled ACT testing day. But they will not be the only students testing that day. Freshmen and sophomores will be taking the Pre-ACT at the same time in order to help prepare the students for taking the actual ACT and provide valuable data for teachers. And the seniors? They get a day off. For the underclassmen, however, once testing concludes, they are free to go home.

This testing change has been welcomed with open arms from administrators.

“It was a hope and a dream of ours for years. We valued NeSA to a point, we did a lot of work towards NeSA, but we always thought ACT mattered more to kids,” principal Mark Kalvoda said.

When it comes to student opinion of the NeSA, some students believed they were wasting their time taking a test that wouldn’t benefit their future.

“The ACT has more benefits because you can apply for colleges with the ACT,” Foster said, “NeSA takes up too much time for it being unnecessary.”

Along with Foster, junior Grant Holst believes the NeSA was unnecessary.

“I was never told the benefits of the NeSA, I feel like the ACT is much more beneficial. [The ACT] is a test that is used nearly nationwide to measure college readiness, [it] helps students prove themselves to rigorous colleges,” Holst said.

The class of 2017 missed out on an array of tools now available to all students. This year’s juniors can now access an ACT website where students will be able to answer practice questions in all four subjects, and they will be able to take full-length, timed ACT tests online. Students look forward to using this free service.

“I know that I will definitely be using it before we take our real ACT test with the school in April,” Holst said, “I think, if it is used correctly, it could help exponentially.”

Administrators hope, with the new materials, that Elkhorn South’s average ACT score, which is currently a 25.6 (the highest in the Omaha metro area) will go up over the next few years.

“To have a high ACT score sends a good message to [highly selective] colleges about the academic rigor that we have at our building,” Kalvoda said, “The brand Elkhorn South, people over time go ‘that’s a good school’, and they’ll see that through our ACT scores, our AP scores. They’ll know that our kids are super competitive.”