To understand the importance of the ACT tests, there is some background information below to give some perspective on why test scores are so important. There is also reporting on 17 local high schools test scores for the past six years along with some statistical information.
In a follow-up article, there will be statistics on remediation rates for the same schools and comments from four of the local Superintendents as well as some of their staff regarding what schools are doing to increase the testing results for their individual schools and reduce the remediation rates.
Every year around the country, high school students take the ACT test. The ACT test has been in existence since 1959. About half of the states are predominately ACT test states and about the other half are SAT test states. Students can take both tests if they want. There is a difference in the scoring.
Nowadays, colleges and universities take both test scores and there is a way to convert one test score to the other.
There are six national test dates each year. It costs $35 per test or $50.50 per test with a writing component. The fees can be waived for low income families. A student may take as many as 12 ACT tests total. Most parents know that college admission is determined for the most part by the test results.
The test scores can also determine the amount of financial aid that students can receive in the form of grants and scholarships. There is a real reward to score as high as possible.
For example, most colleges and universities have a minimum test score for admission. According to Cheryl Conditt, Principal at Durant High School, the minimum score for admission to OSU is 24 while OU requires a 25. The Southeastern website lists a score of 20 as a requirement but will accept a lower score with a GPA of 2.7 from specific core classes. Liz McCraw, Dean of Enrollment Management at SOSU said that they turned away three percent of their applicants in the most current year of record because of poor test scores and not a high enough grade component.
Many of the financial aid packages require a specific ACT test to receive any aid.
This is more prevalent from private universities than state universities, but it still can make quite a difference. Again, according to Conditt, if a student scores a 28 on the ACT test, they can receive a $1500 scholarship from Oklahoma State University. Not only that, but they can receive free tuition from a junior college (like Murray State College) with a 28 score on the ACT. So higher test scores make a difference on getting into a college or university as well as determining the amount of scholarships that can be available to the student.
Austin College, a highly acclaimed liberal arts college in Sherman, Texas, lists scholarship amounts on their website by ACT test and GPA. While these are generalized numbers and they admitted that it can vary by student, the website lists a scholarship of $22,000 for a student with an ACT score of 30 and a GPA of 3.5. Correspondingly, if the test score was a 28 and a GPA of 3.5, the scholarship offered would be $20,000. This is another indication that a higher test score means more scholarship money being available.
One of the things that a lot of people might not know is that colleges and universities determine which students need remedial courses based on their individual ACT test scores.
This is mandated by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. According to the web-site for the Regents, if a student makes less than a 19 in the math section of the ACT test, they must go through a remediation process which probably means they must take remediation classes. These remedial classes end up costing more tuition money from the students/parents footing the bill. It could also make a difference on how long it takes for an individual student to graduate from college. (Some parents and students can relate to the “five-year plan”.) The most common remedial area is Math as shown by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Remediation Report which is available on their web-site.
Currently, the Oklahoma State Department of Education requires only three years of math for a high school student. However, Durant High School requires four years according to Conditt. The courses offered by the school include the higher math courses, AP math courses and the business math type courses. According to Lecreatia Decker, a Durant High School counselor with a lot of smaller school experience, most smaller schools only require three years of math although some smaller schools are now offering a fourth year although it is not mandatory as in Durant’s case. Since it is not known what every school requires, there may be smaller schools which do require the four years as Durant requires.
The state Board of Education requires every high school principal to present ACT scores for their school each year along with college remediation rates at their local, public board of education meeting. According to a posting on the State Department of Education, the statewide average remediation rate for first-time freshmen entering college in the fall of 2010, the most recent number available is 41.9 percent.
This is down from almost 43 percent in 2009-10. For the most recent year of data available, again according to McCraw, Southeastern had a remediation rate of 52.2 percent. This means that just a little more than half of incoming freshman had to take at least one class for no credit to be able to take the college course in that area. Some of the students had to take more than one class. This/these course (s) are still included in the tuition bill but they do not count toward the requirements of a degree. They are referred to as zero credit classes.
In a posting on the Oklahoma State Department of Education website dated August 29, 2012, when last year’s test scores were reported to the school districts around the state, the Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Janet Barresi, said that the scores give schools guidance in areas where more attention and rigor is needed. She was quoted as saying, “We see some positive areas, such as the number of students testing and a slight uptick in math subscores.” A total of 29,342, or 80 percent, of the Oklahoma graduating class of 2012 took the ACT exam at least once this year, up from 76 percent in 2011 and a record high. The average composite score for the state is 20.7 a number unchanged since 2007 and below the national average of 21.1.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education publishes the composite test scores by high school and maintains them for the last six years on their web-site. Numerous local schools’ test scores for the past five years are shown below as well as various comparisons expressed as percentages. There are a few local schools not included because their sample was too small.
Of the 17 schools listed, the composite test scores in 2012 ranged from a low of 17.6 at Wapanucka to a high of 21.4 at Durant. Five had lower test scores in 2012 compared to 2007 – Atoka, Calera, Madill, Silo and Wapanucka. Thirteen schools improved in that same time span, with the biggest percentage improvement going to Kingston which improved 13.3 percent from a score of 18.0 to a score in 2012 of 20.4. Other schools to show improvement included Achille, Bennington, Caddo, Caney, Coalgate, Colbert, Durant, Rock Creek, Tishomingo, Tushka, and Tupelo.
As mentioned above, Oklahoma’s composite ACT test score in 2012 was a score of 20.7. There was only one school in the list above that exceeded the state composite average – Durant. All of the other 16 schools were below the state composite and below the national average of 21.1.
In the second part of the ACT article in next week’s Sunday edition, the top ten ACT test schools in the state will be compared to the bottom ten schools. The math scores for the local schools will be compared to state requirements and all local schools most recent remediation rates will be shown. There will also be information and ideas discussed from some local superintendents and their staffs about what they are doing to improve their test scores and what some of their challenges are. An example of discussions for next week’s article is that one of the superintendents said, “A kid that is hungry cannot learn very well. That is why we provide two free meals a day for every student. They have no choice.” This was from one of the schools which showed improvement in their test scores. Another superintendent said, “The importance of education in the home is most important, after that the most important thing is the quality of the classroom teacher.”
There will also be thoughts about what parents can do to help their children achieve higher test scores. As mentioned earlier, the national composite of the ACT test scores in 2012 was a 21.1.
On the negative side, all but one local school was below the national average, but if you want to look at the positive side, twelve schools have shown improvement from their scores of six years ago. Many schools now include an ACT test preparation class for their students. There will be discussion on how some of the schools are able to do that with somewhat limited resources.
|ACT Composite Test Scores by Year|