Parish ACT scores dip

By JEAN L. KAESS

St. Mary Parish high schools experienced an overall decline in composite ACT scores during the 2011-12 school year.

The parish experienced a decline in composite score from 19.8 in 2011 to 19.2.

“This decline could be attributed to an increase in the number of seniors taking the ACT. A record-setting 392 high school seniors participated in the national aptitude test used to measure college-readiness,” Superintendent Donald Aguillard said.

A composite score is a compilation of the English, math, reading and science sections of the American College Test. Statewide, the composite score showed another one-tenth growth from 20.2 to 20.3. Louisiana’s score remains below the national average of 21.1.

Annual component averages reported for St. Mary Parish high schools declined except for seniors at Patterson High School who maintained an 18.7 and West St. Mary, which had an increase from 18.4 to 18.5.

The largest decline was at Centerville High School where the 19 students who took the test in both 2011 and 2012 dropped from an average of 20.3 to 16.9, in respective years.

To reflect the state’s new rigor in literacy, students in grades 8 to 11 will begin taking the ACT series in 2013 as part of Louisiana’s accountability testing program. In the spring, students in grades 8 and 9 will take the Explore test while sophomores will take the Plan test. Both the Explore and Plan tests help gauge potential ACT scoring ranges, enabling teachers to pinpoint weaknesses for remediation. The state is covering expenses associated with administering both tests as well as ACT testing of all juniors in March, Aguillard said.

St. Mary Parish will provide a practice ACT test session for juniors in November as a means of further preparation and remediation. High schools district-wide are also offering focused ACT prep courses as part of the regular curriculum. In addition, the district also has purchased student licenses from Gale Online that include ACT preparation and practice resources for use at all six local high schools.

High school teachers have been provided the opportunity to take a 10-week online professional development course that encompasses data analysis, review of college readiness standards and the development of strategies to build upon Explore and Plan data.

“I commend our 2012 graduates for the large number of students participating in the ACT and making preparations to attend college. I am certainly disappointed in the decline of district scores; however, I feel highly confident that the state and district’s plan to increase course rigor in preparation for the ACT test will in all likelihood demonstrate positive results,” Aguillard said.

“As the ACT now becomes a mandatory test in all of Louisiana’s public high schools, the curriculum will adjust and shift to emphasize college and career readiness skills embedded in the Common Core State Standards,” he added.

Louisiana’s average score edged upward again this year, even while the national composite score remained flat.

The state’s 20.3 average ACT score for 2012 — on a scale where the top score is 36 — improved by one-tenth of a point from 20.2 in 2011, the same level of improvement from a year earlier. But Louisiana’s score remains below the national average of 21.1.

The percentage of Louisiana students earning scores that deemed them ready for college in all subjects tested was only 17 percent, compared to 25 percent nationally.

Twenty-nine percent of the state’s students didn’t score at the college or career readiness mark on any subject.

Nearly 37,000 of Louisiana’s high school graduates took the college entrance exam, according to the data.

Louisiana’s students performed best on the English portion of the test, with 68 percent meeting the college readiness benchmark, slightly above the national average, according to ACT Inc.

The state’s most dismal performance was in science, where 22 percent of Louisiana’s test-takers met the readiness benchmark, compared to 46 percent for reading and 35 percent in math.

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