Marion County schools saw a mixed bag in performance on the ACT college entrance exam for the class of 2013. The average score at Marion increased nearly a point, while Goessel school leaders were caught off-guard by an almost 5-point decline.
No school’s graduating class had more than a third of students who were fully ready for college, according to the ACT’s benchmarks.
By the ACT’s determination, a score of 18 in English, 22 in math, 22 in reading, and 23 in science indicate that a student has a 50 percent chance to get a B or better or a 75 percent chance to get a C or better on related college coursework.
The Kansas average scores were 21.2 in English, 21.7 in math, 22.3 in reading, 21.7 in science, and 21.8 overall, and 30 percent of Kansas students who took the ACT met the test’s college-readiness benchmarks in all four subjects.
The average composite score for Marion High School increased from 20.7 to 21.6, while the school had a 55 percent increase in the number of students taking the test, from 29 in 2012 to 45 in 2013.
Component scores rose in all areas, as well, from 19.9 to 20.9 in reading, 21.0 to 21.3 in match, 20.8 to 21.6 in reading, and 20.7 to 22.0 in science.
Superintendent Lee Leiker said he was glad the scores rose, but it wasn’t all rosy.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed we’re not at the state average in all areas,” Leiker said. “It’s an important measurement. We’ll continue to focus on it.”
Over the past five years, Marion’s scores have fluctuated up and down by as much as 1.5 points. Leiker said his goal for the district is to meet or exceed the state average on a consistent basis. The average science score for the school was better than the state average, though.
Leiker is optimistic about next year’s results, because this year’s senior class has several students who have maintained a perfect grade point average through the first three years of high school.
With 62 students in the graduating class, 11 students — 18 percent — met ACT benchmarks for college readiness in all four subject areas.
Centre’s average composite score decreased from 20.4 in 2012 to 20.1 in 2013. Component scores were 18.3 English, 20.5 math, 20.9 reading, and 20.7 science.
Out of a graduating class of 23, three students — 13 percent — met the ACT benchmarks for college readiness in all four areas.
Superintendent Brian Smith said the scores themselves didn’t look great, but he noted that the scores of students who took upper-level math and science courses were comparable to or better than state average scores for students who took the same classes.
Centre is planning a test preparation day Oct. 2. The “Power Prep” class will be from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will be taught by Carolyn Devane, an ACT specialist from McPherson.
Historically, people who have taken the class have improved their ACT scores by about 2 points, Smith said. Registration is due Sept. 20, and there is a $35 fee. He said the class will also be open to Marion students, if any are interested.
Centre also offers ACT preparation classes as part of its virtual school.
Scores at Hillsboro High School were a mixed bag, and slightly down overall, from 22.4 in 2012 to 22.2 in 2013. English and reading scores increased, from 21.5 to 21.8 and from 22.1 to 22.5, respectively. Math and science scores declined, from 22.8 to 22.3 and from 22.4 to 21.8, respectively.
Overall, scores are down compared to two to four years ago, when they peaked at 24.2 in 2010. Noble said he couldn’t draw a conclusion specifically tying the scores to it, but he noted that the high school had cut back from having three sections to two of core math, English, and other classes over that time frame.
Noble said the school’s curriculum hasn’t changed much in recent years, but the number of poor students has increased steadily. Because of the relatively small number of students taking the test, averages can change substantially from year to year, and a single student can have a greater effect, he said.
Noble hopes to use the ACT as Hillsboro’s standard assessment in the future, provided Kansas allows school districts to choose their own assessments. The district plans to pay for every senior to take the ACT once this year.
The number of students tested increased from 30 to 42, although there were 51 seniors. Fourteen students — 27 percent of the graduating class — met ACT benchmarks for college readiness in all four areas.
The average ACT score at Peabody-Burns High School dropped from 21.8 in 2012 to 20.5 in 2013. Component scores were 19.8 English, 20.3 math, 20.6 reading, and 20.7 science.
The district had 21 seniors, and all of them took the test. Four met the college readiness benchmarks in all areas. With so few people taking the test, large fluctuations in average scores are expected, Superintendent Ron Traxson said.
In contrast, all high school graduates in Colorado take the ACT, which allows for a truer comparison from school to school and year to year, he said.
Traxson said the school will administer a practice ACT to juniors in October as part of “Test Fest Day.” Freshmen and sophomores will take ACT precursor tests the same day.
English teacher Doris Unruh gives students some ACT preparation questions as part of normal class work. Traxson thought some other teachers did the same, but he wasn’t certain.
Algebra is one area of the ACT where students often surprisingly struggle, because juniors and seniors usually haven’t had algebra for a couple of years, moving on to trigonometry and calculus. Traxson thought a quick refresher could help improve math scores.
In the long term, state school standards that are closer to the ACT standards would likely see ACT scores rise. But under old, unaligned standards, even exceeding standards on state tests wasn’t a clear predictor of success on the ACT.
For the first time in at least five years, Goessel High School’s average ACT score fell below the state average. The composite score fell from 24.9 in 2012 to 21.0 this year, and Superintendent John Fast was flummoxed.
“That puzzles us,” he said. “This is an anomaly for us.”
Fast said the school didn’t have reason to expect such a drop. State assessment scores, student classroom performance, and college acceptance for the class of 2013 were all comparable to previous years, he said. Making it even more surprising was that the class included a student who received a very high score — 34 or 35 — which should have buoyed the average score.
Fast planned to look at the situation with other staff members to see if there is a problem that can be corrected. Three variables he plans to examine are the curriculum used at the school, variation in the test from year to year, and changes in the student body.
The school had 16 students tested out of 22 seniors. Only three students — 14 percent of the graduating class — met the ACT benchmarks for college readiness in all four areas.
Average ACT scores of incoming students vary from college to college, and there can be significant difference among a college’s “average” students. A difference of 6 points on the ACT composite score between a college’s 25th percentile students and its 75th percentile students isn’t uncommon.
- Emporia State University: 20 to 25 composite, 19 to 24 English, and 19 to 25 math.
- Fort Hays State University: 18 to 24 composite, 17 to 24 English, and 17 to 24 math.
- Tabor College: 19 to 25 composite, 19 to 26 English, and 18 to 25 math.
- University of Kansas: 22 to 28 composite, 21 to 28 English, and 22 to 28 math.
- Wichita State University: 20 to 25 composite, 19 to 25 English, and 20 to 26 math.
ACT scores are not the only, nor even necessarily the most important, factor colleges consider in admissions and scholarships. A student’s class rank percentage is considered more useful in some circles.