ACT scores mixed for schools

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By Bryan Marshall

Williamstown High School celebrated while Grant County High School was left disappointed with recently released ACT scores.

The data released by the Kentucky Department of Education was from high school juniors taking the test during the 2010-11 school year.

Since 2008, as mandated by state law, all of Kentucky’s public school juniors participate in the ACT, which assesses English, reading, mathematics and science and is scored on a scale of 1 to 36.

Williamstown placed 11th in the state with a composite score of 21.3, up from 19.9 during the 2009-10 school year.

The score, which was 1.1 points above the state average, improved for the third consecutive year.

“I think it really validates all the hard work teachers and our students do throughout the year,” said Misty Middleton, instructional supervisor for Williamstown Independent Schools. “When you see all the blood, sweat and tears pay off, it really does make us all feel that we are doing the right things for our students.”

Fifty-six juniors took the test at WHS and the combined scores in each category was above state averages.
WHS scored a 21.1 in English, 21.5 in math, 21 in science and a 20.8 in reading.

“You have a small population testing so you have to perform really well,” Middleton said. “But, with that small population, we do know our kids. Our teachers know our students. Teachers collaborate all the time about the kids. That is really important.”

Senate Bill 1, passed in the 2009 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, mandates that ACT results be included in school and district accountability results in the 2011-12 school year.

State law also mandates that Kentucky’s public school students participate in the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS) from ACT.

The state assesses public school eighth graders using the EXPLORE test, public school 10th graders with the PLAN test and public school 11th graders through the ACT.

“We’re working with each student individually,” Middleton said. “This will be our fourth year using the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) program. We’re able to utilize that assessment to see what the kids need to work on and meet each student where they are as an individual. WIth the EXPLORE and PLAN that our students have to take in the eighth and 10th grades, which are the pretests for the ACT, we take a look at those also.”

At GCHS, the news was not as good as the 261 juniors who took the ACT scored below state averages in every area.

The composite score was a 17.8, down from 18.3 last year.

“We are disappointed in the scores,” said Grant County Schools Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Wright. “We have been focused on college and career readiness for the past two years and we would like to see scores increase. Although we have a plan for supporting students taking the ACT, after reviewing our latest results we know we need to go back and revise in order to be more successful. One thing we do know, our students are capable of meeting ACT benchmarks and it is our job to make sure they are prepared. We will take a close look at everything we do to determine what we can do better to increase student success.”

The subject-area scores for GCHS included 16.7 in English, 18.1 in math, 17.8 in reading and 18.3 in science.

The district has already started focusing on the ACT for this school year with a full-day of professional development on Aug. 11 for middle and high school teachers.

Along with analyzing past results, teachers also took portions of the test during the training.

“This helps them to remember the feeling our students have when faced with a huge test that is timed and difficult,” Wright said. “It also allows them to become familiar with the type of questions that ACT asks so they can begin to recreate those types of questions in their own classroom to provide students with more frequent opportunities answering ACT-like questions.”

GCHS also has purchased E-Prep, an online ACT program that provides students with opportunities to take practice ACT tests and study ACT content by watching videos that accompany each ACT question.

The program will be used by all students at Grant County High School during GRANT time (Get Ready for the ACT in No Time), which takes place on Tuesday and Thursday each week.  

“We are encouraged by our juniors’ PLAN scores, which increased 1.1 points and is above the state average,” Wright said. “They had a composite of 17.4 and the state composite is 16.7. These students will take the ACT in March and we want to see significant gains in scores.”