WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — All Kansas high school juniors will be able to take ACT exams and assessments for free next school year, according to state education officials.

Department of Education spokeswoman Denise Kahler told The Wichita Eagle that the free tests are being financed through additional funding from the state Legislature as part of its new school finance plan.

"We're excited about it," Kahler said. "We think it's a great opportunity for our kids, and we're very appreciative of the Legislature for allotting funding for us and providing this for our students."

The ACT exam gauges a student's readiness for success in college and covers English, math, reading and science. The ACT WorkKeys assessments measure essential workplace skills such as mathematical reasoning and comprehending work-related reading materials. The exams will be administered statewide in February.

Some Kansas school districts have previously funded ACT exams for students. The ACT also waives fees for students who can show an economic need. Students otherwise pay $50 for the ACT exam and an additional $16.50 for an optional writing assessment.

State officials said they'll recommend, but not require, that all juniors take both tests. Officials are also encouraging seniors who didn't take the tests last year to do so this year.

Students' ACT scores last year fell to their lowest point in five years. About 29 percent of Kansas high school graduates who took the ACT in 2017 scored at the college-ready benchmark on all four subjects, down from 32 percent in 2013. The national average is 27 percent.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com