Local students improve ACT scores

Thursday, August 30, 2007

SIKESTON -- Local high schools improved their ACT scores but did not pass the 2007 state or national averages.

Missouri's average ACT score this year is 21.6, compared to the national average of 21.2, which increased this year by one-tenth of a point. The maximum possible score on the ACT is 36. The ACT is the most popular college-entry exam in Missouri and most other Midwestern states.

The new data released earlier this month reflect the performance of all 2007 high school graduates who took the exam as sophomores, juniors or seniors.

At Sikeston High School, 102 seniors took the ACT in 2007 -- down from 123 who took the test in 2006. The composite score was 20.8, which was up from 20.1 in 2006. Students averaged a score of 21.6 in English; 19.6 in math; 21.7 in reading; and 20.1 in science.

Statewide the number of 2007 graduates taking the test increased to an all-

time high.

In Missouri, 45,354 graduates took the ACT -- an increase of nearly 2,500 over 2006. The percentage of Missouri graduates taking the ACT jumped to 74 percent this year from 70 percent last year.

Charleston High School students increased their composite from 19.2 in 2006 to 20.4 in 2007 when 33 students took the test.

"We were very pleased with our scores. They're at a five-year high," superintendent Kevin Miller said.

Scores saw a seven-tenths increase in English with a score of 19.9. Math scores jumped 1.2 points to 20.2; reading scores increased 1.8 points to 20.5, and science went up 1.7 points to 20.7.

East Prairie High School students also improved their composite score, which jumped from 18.8 to 19.7. English scores increased from 18.8 to 19.3; math from 19.2 to 20.2; reading from 18.0 to 19.2; and science from 18.8 to 19.6. Some schools have not yet received the 2007 ACT data, school officials said. These include Scott County Central, Kelly, Portageville and New Madrid County Central.

According to ACT, the number of white students taking the test in Missouri dropped by 99 this year to a total of 32,801. The number of African-

American test-takers increased by 362, to 4,563. However, the number of students in the category of "other/no response" jumped by more than 2,000 -- more than 50 percent -- to a total of 6,003.

But at Sikeston, 13 black students took the test in 2007 compared to 21 in 2006. However, three Asian students took the test in 2007 compared to none in 2006; one Hispanic student in 2007, down one from 2006. Seven students didn't identify their race in 2007 while nine didn't identify their race in 2006.

"Our African-American students scored above the state average for African-

Americans," the Charleston superintendent said.

In Missouri, 47 percent of this year's graduates reported that they took the "core curriculum" recommended by the ACT. Students who take at least the recommended core curriculum in high school always score higher than the average on the ACT and substantially higher than students who do not take the more rigorous academic courses.

This held true for Sikeston.

The composite for all Sikeston students who took the core curriculum or more was 21.3, and for those who took less than the core courses, the composite was 19.1.

Of the black students who took core courses, the average score was 17.3 compared to 16.4 for students who took less than the core courses. The average score for white students who took more than the core curriculum was 21.9, and it was 19.9 for those who took less than the core curriculum. The Hispanic student didn't take the core curriculum and scored 21.0. All three Asian students took the core curriculum and scored a composite of 22.3. Students in the category of "other" averaged 19.7 for those who took core classes and 18.5 for those who took less than the core courses.

"We have found those students who have taken college prep courses do well," said Laura White, counselor at East Prairie High School.

This year East Prairie is offering a new semester-long course which will focus on eight weeks of science and math and eight weeks of reading and English.

"We're hoping this will bump our scores. In the past we've offered week-long prep courses but not semester-long," White said.

Last school year, Sikeston began offering a communication arts and math ACT prep class, which is offered throughout the semester and covers all aspects of the ACT.

"Last year scores did improve after the students took the ACT test. It was pretty impressive," principal Tom Williams said.

Seniors are placed in the course in the first semester and juniors in the second semester.

"Our goal with that course is to enroll more students in there and get them exposed to test-taking techniques and subject content involved with the ACT," Williams said.

To help improve scores, Charleston has added several ACT prep strategies in the district.

"We have, in cooperation with our local churches, taken students to their family life centers and auditoriums to provide a testing situation and given students the practice test. They're away from the (school) building, and it's something more similar to where they'll be taking the test," Miller said.

More students are also taking upper level classes through dual credit courses offered online, at the high school and at the Sikeston campus through Southeast Missouri State University. They also take advanced level courses like anatomy, physics and calculus, Miller said.

"We're going to continue adding more and more ACT prep strategies," Miller said. "We welcome any suggestions from the community as to how we can help those children improve their scores."

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