Grant improves, Williamstown ranks high in ACT results

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By Bryan Marshall

Grant County High School saw improvements and Williamstown High School remained highly ranked in recently released ACT results.
The data released by the Kentucky Department of Education is from high school juniors who took the test during the 2011-12 school year.
Since 2008, state law has mandated 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.
At Williamstown High School, 50 juniors took the test and received an average composite score of 20.8, which is down slightly from the 21.3 average score of the junior class two years ago.
While the school ranked 11th in the state last year for their scores, WHS ranks 21st out of 230 Kentucky high schools and tied for fifth among northern Kentucky high schools this year.
The now-senior group also have jumped nearly three points from a composite score of 18.1 in the ACT-like PLAN test in 10th grade.
“This continues to place us in the top 10 percent of the state,” said Misty Middleton, Williamstown Independent Schools instructional supervisor. “Although the overall composite decreased by .5 from last year, you cannot compare the two as it is two different groups of students, with different demographics, taking the test.  It would be like comparing apples to oranges.  Instead, we look at the particular group, over a period of time, and see that they are increasing academic achievement. We find that our students are increasing their academic scores, and as seniors in our building this year, will continue with learning as it is the district’s mission to have all students college and career ready.”
WHS scored a 21.1 in English, 20.3 in math, 21.1 in reading and 20.4 in science, all scores above the state average.
While Grant County did not meet the state composite average of 19, the juniors’ score of 18.7 was up from the score of 17.8 for 2010-11’s junior class.
The school’s scores were in the top five most improved in northern Kentucky.

“The results confirm that we are moving in the right direction,” said Jennifer Wright, Grant County Schools assistant superintendent for curriculum. “We made progress in every single content area.”
“We certainly want to be above state averages and we are close,” she said. “English and math are within .4 points of the state average, science is within .3 points and reading is just .1 away from the state average. Our real goal is to ensure that each and every one of our students have met the benchmarks and are college and career ready.”

The average scores for GCHS in the ACT content areas were 18 in English, 18.4 in math, 18.9 in reading and 18.8 in science.
Two hundred and sixty-five GCHS students took the ACT.
Along with efforts in the classroom, GCHS juniors received a little extra motivation last year for taking the ACT.
The group attended Northern Kentucky University and took the test on a college campus.  
On the morning of the assessment, each student received a good luck breakfast and an individual letter written by a staff member who adopted them for the day.  

“As they loaded the buses, they were able to read their letter of encouragement and really get a feel for the purpose of taking the test,” Wright said. “This year’s juniors will take the test at Thomas More College while receiving a new wave of encouragement from our district employees.”
To help achieve successful test results, Middleton said that teachers and staff use student data to build on individual student strengths and enhance any weaknesses.

Teachers also collaborate to help students gain the knowledge and skills needed to tackle the ACT.
“Most importantly, our students are extremely receptive to the help they receive and are genuinely concerned for their scores,” Middleton said. “We have the community, parents, and teachers to thank for this because they share with students the importance of learning and growing in order to pave the way for a successful future.
The ACT results also help gauge the students’ college readiness in English, reading and math by establishing benchmarks for them to reach in each content area.
The benchmarks set include a score of 20 in reading, 18 in English and 19 in math.

At Williamstown, 78 percent met the English benchmark while 54 percent and 62 percent met math and reading benchmarks, respectively.

“Not only are our benchmark percentages all above state averages, but they show an improvement over previous data for this group of students,” Middleton said. “This is extremely important as these scores indicate we are preparing students to be successful in credit bearing courses in college, which approximately 90 percent of our students enroll in upon graduating from high school.”  
Grant County High School, which had more than five times as many students take the test, had 50.9 percent meet the English benchmark, 35.1 percent meet the math benchmark and 42.3 percent meet the reading benchmark.

“Our state has adopted very rigorous academic benchmarks,” Wright said. “We agree with this high standard and acknowledge that all districts, Grant County included, have much work to do.”
“As a district we are implementing systemic changes that we believe will result in steadily increasing student achievement,” she said. “These measures include increased accountability in the classroom at all levels, teachers receiving professional training, more attention to individual student needs and the mastery of literacy embedded into every content. As these measures continue, we anticipate an increase in ACT scores each year.”