Lawmaker takes aim at WorkKeys

By David Fleet
Area school districts may soon be allowed to opt out of certain standardized testing.
State Rep. John Reilly, (R-46th District) reintroduced a bipartisan measure that he sponsored last term to allow school districts to opt out the ACT WorkKeys test. House Bill 4162 has been assigned to the House Education Committee.
In December 2017 the House Fiscal Agency identified the cost of the ACT WorkKeys at $4 million per year.
The ACT WorkKeys system measures skills such as reading, math, listening, locating information, and teamwork. The results help students understand how they can improve their skills for better-paying jobs. Students who take the WorkKeys tests have a clear way to demonstrate their abilities to future employers, say supports.
“The bill would create savings for the state by eliminating the requirement that the Michigan Merit Examination include a workforce readiness assessment,” said Reilly. “Currently the Michigan Merit Examination includes the ACT WorkKeys assessment to fulfill this requirement. The state is in its third year of a three-year contract with ACT for the WorkKeys administration, scoring and reporting at a total cost of $12.6 million, of which $4 million is identified as fiscal year 2017-18 costs. Student assessment contract costs are appropriated in Section 104 of the State School Aid Act.”
“The multitude of federal and state assessments for each grade, especially in high school, are burdensome to our school districts,” added Reilly. “In the 11th grade alone, students are mandated to take the SAT, M-STEP and WorkKeys assessments. We’re testing the same material, over and over, at the expense of precious learning time and at no value to students or parents.”
Ed Colby, senior director of public relations for the ACT WorkKeys disagrees.
“The WorkKeys test is important because it measures the skills in the work place,” said Colby.

“The WorkKeys test the skills they (students) would use on the job. Some students may not be college bound after high school, rather, enter the work force and need help with their strength or weaknesses for their prospective employee.”
The skills tested are needed for the vast majority of entry level positions, added Colby.
“Once completed the student will have the credentials for the prospective employer,” he said. “Ultimately, the test will provide employees knowledge of readiness.”
Currently, Alabama, Michigan, South Carolina and Wisconsin fund the WorkKeys. There are also nine states that partially fund the WorkKeys.
Last year Matt Outlaw, Brandon Schools superintendent testified endorsing HB 4162.
“Students spend a half day each year taking the ACT WorkKeys test,” testified Outlaw. “While I understand what the intent was when this test was first implemented, test results from the ACT WorkKeys provides absolutely no valuable data to schools and has not been used in any way for the two decades that I have worked at the high school level.”
“The Brandon School District strongly supports the State’s investment in career technical education, but we do not feel that a continued investment in this test is worth the cost,” he said. “We would much rather see State resources allocated towards Career Technical Educations programming, essential CTE equipment for schools, career internships and career training for students.”