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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Statewide rise in ACT scores likely to drop

  • Assessment to be administered to all 11th graders in 2015This year's composite ACT results for most school districts may be the highest they'll be for the foreseeable future, as the Missouri State Board of Education approved earlier this year the administration of the test to all junior students attending public school districts beginning 2015.
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    • In addition to higher composite scores, the percentage of Missouri students who met ACT benchmarks rose in reading and science. A benchmark score is the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-ar...

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      In addition to higher composite scores, the percentage of Missouri students who met ACT benchmarks rose in reading and science. A benchmark score is the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher in the corresponding credit-bearing college course. There was also an increase in the percentage of students who met benchmarks in all four subject areas:

      Reading: 51 percent, up from 49 percent last year; higher than the national average of 44 percent.

      Science: 42 percent, up from 41 percent last year; higher than the national average of 37 percent.

      Mathematics: 45 percent, unchanged from last year; higher than the national average of 43 percent.

      English: 72 percent, unchanged from last year; higher than the national average of 64 percent.

      All four subject areas: 29 percent, up from 28 percent last year; higher than the national average of 26 percent.

  • This year's composite ACT results for most school districts may be the highest they'll be for the foreseeable future, as the Missouri State Board of Education approved earlier this year the administration of the test to all junior students attending public school districts beginning 2015.
    The ACT was administered to 48,865 graduating Missouri seniors in 2014. That number represents 76 percent of all graduating seniors. By 2016 that number will increase to 100 percent to include all graduating seniors.
    The first statewide ACT assessment will be administered to juniors April 28, 2015, free of charge to students. Those scores will be reflected in 2016 composite results when they graduate.
    In an Aug. 21 news release the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reported a statewide increase in 2014 ACT composite scores, however that number will likely dip by the 2016 report.
    "After nearly a decade of scoring at 21.6, Missouri graduates have raised their ACT composite score to 21.8," the release reads.
    The national average is 21.
    State Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro said she was pleased to see higher scores across the state.
    "Our teachers and students are working hard to improve college readiness, and these scores are an indication that we're moving closer to our goal of being among the top 10 states in education by 2020," Nicastro said.
    Local district 2014 composite scores were also released Aug. 21, with St. James and Rolla remaining flat or scoring slightly lower than in years past, and Newburg totaling its highest composite in five years.
    ROLLA
    Jim Pritchett, Rolla High School principal, said based on the school's 2014 results, he was proud of the students and teachers.
    Rolla's composite score for 2014 was 22.4. Last year, the school's composite score was 23, and in 2012, the school's score was 22.5.
    In 2011, the RHS composite score was 23, and the year before that, the score was 22.8.
    "It's proof we're preparing students for college and life beyond high school," he said.
    Pritchett said about 20 additional RHS students took the ACT this year, which is a slight increase over last year. This year, 65 percent of graduates took the ACT, while in 2013, 62.9 percent of graduates took the test.
    The 2014 RHS scores have stayed within the same range as in the past few years, and its composite scores also have remained above the state level for the past five years.
    The 2014 scores for RHS in English, math, reading and science were also about the same as in the past few years. The 2014 scores were slightly less than the 2013 scores in each of the four categories.
    The 2014 RHS scores were as follows: English, 21.7; math, 21.9; reading, 23.1; and science, 22.5.
    Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, a one-time administration of the ACT exam will be given to every Missouri 11th grader.
    Pritchett said while there is some speculation that next year's scores will go down because of the requirement, he sees a benefit to juniors in high school taking the ACT.
    Page 2 of 3 - "It may encourage kids to look toward college a little more ... I see it as a positive in the long run," he said.
    Pritchett said in past years, Rolla students in eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th grades have taken the ACT.
    NEWBURG
    In the Newburg School District, ACT scores have increased across the board over the past four years. In 2010, half of Newburg's graduating class took the ACT and scored a composite score of 18.6.
    This year, 31.4 percent of the graduating students took the test and their composite score is 20.8.
    "Of course I'm glad to see the improvements," said Newburg High School principal Steve Guffey.  
    The most dramatic increase was seen in the school's English scores. In 2010, the school's average  ACT score in that category was 17.2; this year it is 20.9.
    During that same period, math and reading scores increased by almost two points, while science scores increased by one point.
    "Last year we had two sections of an ACT Prep class that I believe helped some students. I'm glad that all juniors will be taking the ACT now that it is mandatory," said Guffey. "Our number of students that have been taking the test has been low. I'm anxious to see how we do with all students testing."
    He added that he hopes that this upward trend will continue.
    "With all the new things we are doing this year," he said, "I want us to be above the state average every year from now on."
    ST.  JAMES
    The St. James School District saw its 2014 ACT composite score dip a point lower than its 2013 average. Last year, the composite score was 21.5 and this year, it is 20.5.
    John F. Hodge High School principal Keith McCarthy said the decrease was unfortunate.
    "A whole point is a pretty significant drop," McCarthy said. "We trying to level that out by making sure there are no holes in our curriculum."
    The district has also began administering in-house ACT practice tests to all juniors, with last year’s class being the first to participate.
    Familiarizing students with the test before they take it can help improve performance. It has continues to administer benchmark tests, which are quarterly examinations that track progress and mastery of essential core concepts.
    Since 2011, the district has had an increasing number of students score more than 30 on the test. The graduating class of 2015 has already had one student score 34 and two score 33. The highest possible score on the ACT is 36.
    "Before 2011, the districts last 34 was almost 10 years ago," McCarthy said.
    Assistant Superintendent Dr. Linda Pruett said the district has remained relatively flat in scores over the year.
    "When our district looks at ACT scores over time, we sit around the same general range," she said.
    Page 3 of 3 - The 2014 John F. Hodge High School scores for the English, math, reading and science categories were as follows: English, 20; math, 19; reading, 21.9; and science, 20.7.
    In 2014 58.5 percent of the district's graduating class took the assessment. That number, of course, will look much different in coming years, since Missouri Board of Education has mandated statewide ACT testing for juniors.
    "Given this, the percentage will skyrocket from the 58 percent range of students tested to much higher," Pruett said. "In my opinion, this will likely decrease our average score, and also the state average…but only time will tell."
    Missouri School Improvement Plan 5, which is the state's school accountability system for reviewing and accrediting public school districts, increasingly includes district measures of college and career readiness.
    Pruett said the ACT doesn't necessarily reflect a students preparedness for college rigors, but rather measures the ability of students to take the ACT.
    "There are many components that impact success in post-secondary education," Pruett said. "These include GPA, good attendance, strong work ethic, et cetera."

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