School has plans to improve test-taking skills
Editor’s note: USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker and Marion High School Principal Tod Gordon declined to provide information about Marion’s 2012 ACT results.
Centre High School’s average ACT score dipped back below 21 this year after above-average results in 2011.
The nine students who took the test had an average composite score of 20.4. That matches the average score from 2008 through 2010, but below the 21.2 average in 2011. This year’s average composite score for the entire state of Kansas was 21.9. Individual subject area scores were 20.3 in English, 21.1 in mathematics, 19.2 in reading, and 20.4 in science.
According to the ACT’s college-readiness benchmarks, six of the nine students who took the test are ready for college English composition classes, four are ready for college biology, three are ready for college algebra, and two are ready for college social sciences. Only one of the students met the college-readiness benchmark in all four subject areas.
USD 397 Superintendent Jerri Kemble said the ACT’s college-readiness benchmarks don’t take into account students’ drive and interest in classes in their field of study, and that isn’t reflected in ACT scores because of its “general education” subject matter.
Nonetheless, Centre is implementing plans to help students perform better on the ACT.
“ACT prep is something the board (of education) has as a goal,” Kemble said. “They want to make sure all of our students are college-ready and can compete.”
Several teachers are now starting classes with a quick ACT preparation item. For instance, Jennifer Montgomery and Jackie Ingram have added an extra vocabulary element to their classes.
The school will have training for sixth- through 12th-grade teachers Nov. 7 on how to prepare students for the ACT, school counselor Mallory Jacobs said. The school will also have a class for students on test-taking skills sometime in the spring. USD 397 will invite students from other districts to participate in the test-taking skills class, as well, Kemble said. Three students have already taken such a class through Butler Community College, and another student plans to take a class in Council Grove.
“We know we have smart students here, we know they are capable, we just want to give them the skills to show it,” Kemble said.
Jacobs said a few students are also being proactive, visiting her to do ACT practice questions. That is reassuring to see, she said, because individual effort and ambition goes a long way toward success on the test. Kemble said there was a student in 2011 who showed a lot of dedication to succeeding on the test, and his results helped him get a full-ride scholarship to the university of his choice.
With the costs of a college education rising steeply in recent years, the opportunity to earn scholarships is an extra incentive – potentially thousands of dollars worth of incentive – for students to prepare for the ACT. Kemble said she hopes parents recognize that and give their children extra encouragement.
Each spring Centre administers a practice ACT, mostly to sophomores. The results are a good predictor of how students will perform on the ACT, but they can also give students direction on what areas they can improve on, Kemble said.