Area graduates headed to college this fall are taking higher ACT scores with them.
The class of 2011’s ACT results were released last week, and in each of the area three school districts the average score was higher than it was the previous year.
Wisconsin had its highest participation rate in the history of the ACT, with 71 percent of public and private high school graduates taking the test. In 2010, 69 percent of graduates took the assessment of college readiness.
The state’s ACT composite score was up one-tenth of a point from last year to 22.2, placing Wisconsin in third place among ACT-taking states.
Minnesota’s composite score was 22.9 and Iowa’s was 22.3. Nationally, the composite score was 21.1, which was also up one-tenth of a point from 2010.
In the Waupaca School District, 50.2 percent of the class of 2011 took the ACT test. The average score was 22.7. The previous year, 51.1 percent took the test, and the average score was 22.5. The average score for the class of 2009 was 22.2, with 59.7 percent of that class taking the test.
Carl Eggebrecht, who is one of two principals at the high school, said that prior to when students take the test, teachers in each of the four core areas – English, math, social studies and science – go over things in the classroom.
For about five years, an ACT prep evening class has been offered.
Susan Davenport, the district’s director of instruction, said that students who take the course score one to two points higher.
Eggebrecht said, “Students get acclimated to what the test questions look like.”
Rob Becker, who is also a principal at the high school, said the majority of students take the ACT test either during their junior year or the summer between their junior and senior years.
“It’s a measure of how they have done their three years of high school and before that,” he said. “That’s why it’s important for students to take higher-level classes through their junior year.”
The PLAN test is offered to sophomores, coordinated through the high school’s guidance department.
Davenport said the score students receive on the ACT test is another picture of how they are doing and that consistently, Waupaca’s students score above the state average.
Eggebrecht said each year they look at what they can do to help students improve their scores.
District Administrator David Poeschl said teachers are expected to teach the material on a daily basis.
“We’re pretty pleased with them,” he said of the 2011 ACT results. “We’re always looking for ways to improve.
In the Iola-Scandinavia School District, 66.7 percent of the class of 2011 took the ACT test, and the average score was 22.6. The previous year, 64 percent took the test and the average score was 21.1. The average score for the class of 2009 was 22.7, with 58.9 percent of that class taking the test.
District Administrator Joe Price said the percentage of students taking the test in the I-S district has been about the same through the years.
“We encourage our students to keep as many options open for themselves as possible, including attending a four-year university,” he said.
The district does a number of things to help students prepare for the ACT test, including offering a one-day ACT prep class.
He believes the test prep has been offered for about the last three years. “We try to offer it,” Price said, “at a time when students are likely to be taking the test.”
He said a number of the district’s high school teachers have audited the test prep class so that they know more about what is expected of their students when they take the ACT test.
The teachers actually helped the presenter proctor parts of the test and took parts of it themselves, Price said.
The I-S district is among those that has its students take other college readiness tests prior to taking the ACT test.
“We do EXPLORE with all of our eighth graders and PLAN with all tenth graders,” Price said.
Students typically take the EXPLORE test as eighth or ninth graders and then the PLAN test as tenth graders.
He said the district just began having the eighth and tenth graders take those tests in the last year or two. In the upcoming years, the district will be able to see how it affects the ACT results.
As for the other measures the district has already taken to help prepare students for the ACT test, Price said he believes the ACT scores are improving, “but the improvement is slight and not enough yet to claim it is a solid trend.”
In the Weyauwega-Fremont School District, 51.5 percent of the class of 2011 took the ACT test, and the average score was 21.8. The previous year, 47.8 percent took the test, and the average score was 20.8. The average score for the class of 2009 was 22.2, with 41.1 percent of that class taking the test.
The average score of the most recent graduates was slightly below the state average.
“Our continued focus is to keep strengthening this aspect of our district. It’s our goal and objective to be at the national and state average and beyond,” said District Administrator Scott Bleck.
Kandi Martin, the district’s director of pupil services/curriculum, said ACT scores are one data point that are considered. “We also look at classroom performance,” she said.
According to high school counselor Carie Kollat, a student’s transcript reflects his strengths. ACT results are one indicator of readiness.
Since joining the district three years ago, Kollat has done several things to help students prepare for the ACT test.
“I started going into the classroom and doing an ACT overview,” she said.
The district also has an ACT team that attended the state conference last year and will again this year.
Questions of the day are incorporated into the core classes so that every student is exposed to the ACT, she said.
This fall, all freshmen will take the EXPLORE test and all sophomores will take the PLAN test, with the juniors taking the ACT practice test, Kollat said.
This past school year, an ACT prep course was also offered for the first time. Thirteen students took it.
During the next couple of years, the district will see how these offerings affect their ACT results.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” Kollat said.