Ah, those prideful days of yore, when only college-bound juniors in Lincoln took the ACT.

Locals could wrench a shoulder patting themselves on the back for scores that exceeded the national average.

Then came that fateful decision to test all juniors in the district.

Just like that the district lost its bragging rights.

Scores announced Tuesday not only put the district below the statewide average, they also put the district below the national average.

LPS officials said the district average for the graduating class of 2013 was 20.5, compared to last year's average of 22.9, the state average composite score of 21.5 and the national average of 20.9.

LPS was one of eight districts in the state that agreed to test all juniors in a three-year pilot project to help state officials decide whether the policy should be extended to cover the entire state.

Loath as the Editorial Board may be to relinquish the stature and recognition that came with above-average scores in the ACT, LPS officials make a persuasive case on why the practice of testing all juniors should continue.

Basically, the practice benefits students.

As Jane Stavem, associate superintendent of instruction, explained, when more students take the ACT, more students are exposed to the possibility of college. Most Midwest colleges accept the ACT for admission. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, an ACT score of 20 qualifies a student for admission.

After getting their scores, some students who would not have even bothered to take the test scored well enough that it prompted them for the first time to think about going to college, said Leslie Lukin, director of assessment and evaluation.

The scores also helped students work with counselors to better prepare themselves for college and to qualify them for classes that would help them start building college credits.

Locals can restore a bit of self-esteem by comparing LPS scores with the nine states that test 100 percent of students. In that peer group, LPS came in third, behind Utah with 20.7 and Illinois with 20.6. Trailing LPS were Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming.

There's also solace to be taken in knowing that LPS is willing to confront reality, grim as it might be.

And it's also possible to imagine that by dint of honest assessment LPS might someday climb above the national average even with 100 percent of students taking the ACT. Now that would be a moment to savor.