Area school districts are waiting to see what becomes of an initiative that would require all high school juniors to take the ACT college admissions test.
The Class of 2012’s ACT results were released just as students from that class headed to college this fall.
Wisconsin’s 2012 ACT composite score was 22.1.
That compares to the nationwide composite of 21.1 and the highest ACT composite score among ACT-taking states of 22.8 in Minnesota.
Both Wisconsin and Iowa had composite scores of 22.1, meaning the two states tied for the No. 2 spot.
Wisconsin’s 2012 ACT composite score compares to its 2011 composite of 22.2.
Seventy-one percent of the state’s 2012 graduates took the exam, which was the same percentage as its 2011 graduates.
Several weeks after the 2012 ACT results were released, State Superintendent Tony Evers announced his proposal to include the four-test ACT suite for career planning and accountability.
The proposal is part of his 2013-15 education budget request.
Under the plan, all public school ninth graders would take the ACT EXPLORE assessment in the spring of the 2014-15 school year.
The ACT PLAN would be administered in 10th grade and the ACT and WorkKeys assessments in 11th grade.
In the Clintonville School District, 44 percent of the Class of 2012 took the ACT test. The average score was 21.9.
The previous year, approximately 47 percent took the test, and the average score was 22.1.
The School District of Clintonville has seen some big swings in its ACT test participation rate. Clintonville High School Principal Lance Bagstad said the district is encouraging students to take the ACT test.
“We’re trying to encourage more and more kids to take it and use that as a guide for both themselves and for us to help work with them as we move them forward in their college planning,” Bagstad said.
Bagstad said the Class of 2009, which had a participation rate of 56 percent, had a lot of students who went to college. He said the current 44 percent participation rate is “a typical number of kids who head off to a four-year university.”
More students are going to technical colleges, Bagstad said.
“Obviously we encourage as many kids to go down the path that their interested in,” Bagstad said. “I guess I’m not a firm believer that you just ram-rod kids off to a four-year university if that’s not the career path they have any interest in at all. If we have kids who are interested in that, we want to encourage them to head that route but we want to base it on their career interest inventories and things like that.”
Bagstad said he would like to see Clintonville’s ACT test scores improve, and the district is doing things to try and make that happen. Last year the district started offering an ACT test prep class to interested students. The class, which requires a nominal fee, is offered through the school’s distance learning program.
“It does the test prep for them. They take practice exams. It gives them a feeling of what it’s like in a time test setting,” Bagstad said.
The district could be moving toward giving all its students the ACT test.
“We have talked about moving toward having all of our kids take that,” Bagstad said. “There are schools in Wisconsin that require all of the juniors to take the ACT. We haven’t gotten to that point yet. We’ve stalled that conversation a little because of the move the state is going to possibly have the ACT becoming a junior exam for all kids in the state of Wisconsin.
In the Manawa School District, 39 percent of the Class of 2012 took the ACT test. The average score was 22.9.
The previous year, approximately 47 percent took the test, and the average score was 21.7.
Cindy Kelm, district councelor for the Manawa School District, said its participation rate may be lower than other schools because of the makeup of its students. She said 35 percent of last year’s graduating seniors went to a four-year or two-year college program, where taking the ACT test is required.
Thirty two percent of the students went to a technical college, which doesn’t require taking the ACT test for admission.
“I think it will vary depending on the class,” Kelm said. “It might also be part of the economy. The technical colleges have very good placement rates so students and families are looking at all of that.”
The district does encourage students to take the ACT test, and it helps prepare students for the test.
Kelm said last year the district started giving all freshmen the ACT EXPLORE test. All sophomores took the ACT PLAN test, and all juniors took the Pre-ACT test. The district will do that again this year.
The district is also considering giving all its eighth grade students the ACT EXPLORE test.
“This should help the students know what is to come and be better prepared to take the ACT test,” said Karl Morrin, Little Wolf High School principal. “We’re hoping that this will help our students out.”
For a nominal fee, the district also offers an ACT prep class through its distance learning lab. The prep class takes place over the course of four evenings, and primarily juniors use this class, Kelm said.
If the state moves to using more ACT testing, Morrin likes the position Manawa is in.
“We’re almost ahead of the game because we incorporated the tests last year,” Morrin said. “More districts will probably start doing that. Since we are already doing that I think that’s a plus for us.
“Our goal is to get more students to take the ACT test. I want to see that number increase. The fact we are above the state average is a positive. We are above the state average and we want to stay where we are and build on it.”
In the New London School District, 52 percent of the Class of 2012 took the ACT test. The average score was 21.5 percent.
The previous year, approximately 51 percent of the Class of 2012 took the ACT test. The average score was 21.4.
The School District of New London currently gives its eighth grade students an ACT EXPLORE test and then the ACT PLAN test to all freshmen.
District Administrator Bill Fitzpatrick said the ACT EXPLORE test gives the district and students a baseline of information for academic and career interests. The ACT PLAN test gives students the opportunity to see what they learned from eighth grade to high school.
“We may expose our blemishes a little bit, but we are going to get kids involved in some rigorous [tests and classes],” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick said with the state looking at using more ACT testing for all high school students, he feels New London is ahead of other schools and research is supporting what New London is doing with regards to ACT testing.
“I think it’s becoming very apparent to people the skills necessary to be college ready and career ready are in fact the same skills,” Fitzpatrick said. “… We’re using ACT as a tool to help us get our arms around college and career readiness.”
Even though it may affect the average ACT test score for the district, Kathy Gwidt, director of teaching and learning, said the district is trying to increase the number of students who take the ACT test.
“We’ve really been looking at what we can do specifically to ensure college and career readiness for all kids,” Gwidt said. “One of those things is to get more and more kids to take the ACT.”
Fitzpatrick added, “Many school districts have decided to just do the ACT, paid by the student. It excluded a number of families from considering it because they don’t want to pay for the test.”
All the ACT testing New London does helps students decide which career academy they go into in high school, Fitzpatrick said. The district offers three academies to students. They include: CAB (Communications, Arts, and Business), STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Math), and Health and Human Services.
“What we’ve committed to is we’ve done enough research to know that we think this is the best model to be moving toward,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’re committed to doing this.”