Mt. Vernon Register-News

September 26, 2013

ACT scores trending up

By TRAVIS MORSE travis.morse@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — Students at Mt. Vernon Township High School achieved an average composite score of 19 on the ACT exams this past spring, a slight increase over the prior two years' scores, said Principal Wes Olson.

Olson delivered a detailed report on ACT scores at Monday night's MVTHS Board of Education meeting. He said the upward trend in scores is a favorable sign for the district.

“We're excited and happy about the progress our students have made and the hard work our faculty and staff have put in to make that happen,” Olson said.

This year, the state has changed the way it calculates ACT scores.

The score composite now includes students who were granted an extended time period to take the test. This extension is typically for students with disabilities. In prior years, these test takers were not factored into a school's overall composite score.

For spring 2013, the MVTHS composite ACT score was 19 including all test takers. Without the extended time students, the school's average score was 19.9.

In 2012, the MVTHS composite ACT score was 18.8 and the year before that it was 18.5. These scores did not include extended time students.

“These are the highest ACT scores we've seen in eight years,” said Superintendent Michael Smith of the 2013 scores. “We feel really good about that.”

Olson attributed the increase to several factors, including the district's “inclusion model” for instruction.

This refers to how MVTHS students with disabilities are placed in “co-taught” classes with non-disabled students so they get exposure to the general education curriculum, Olson said.

Another important factor is the preparation students receive prior to the ACT test their junior year.

They take two assessment tests a year during their freshman, sophomore, and junior years. Of these, only the Prairie State Achievement Examination, which includes the ACT, is a state mandated test.

The remainder of the exams are used by the district to prepare students for the ACT. The tests also help school officials determine the students' strengths and weaknesses so instructional programs can be targeted to their needs, Olson said.

“We want to use that data to find out where our students are,” Olson said.

Sophomores in the 2012-2013 school year had a drop in test scores comparing the results of their PLAN tests with their pre-ACT exams.

However, Smith explained such a decrease is normal since the pre-ACT test is much longer and more difficult and is designed to be a warm-up test to gauge their abilities. This test consists of a retired ACT exam.

“It's to give them their first experience of what the ACT test will be like,” Smith said.

And while test scores are an important indicator of student ability, they are not the be-all and end-all of education, Olson said.

It's also key to focus on programs unrelated to assessment tests, such as fine arts, he said.

“We want to see our students grow,” Olson said. “We want to make sure they're making progress and they're learning.”

Other MVTHS Board actions Monday included:

n Approval of hiring Heather Beckley as a part-time CTE instructor. Beckley's resignation was also accepted for her position as a full-time instructor.

n Approval of several staff resignations, including Laura Warren, senior class sponsor; Kiley Docherty, freshman class sponsor; Brian Chelf, assistant wrestling coach; and Jared Shaner, assistant boys basketball coach.