By ROB W. ANDERSON
Secondary education officials across the state may differ on what the new report card grading system reflects, but they would likely agree that a final score on the American College Test is truly transparent.
Two Cherokee County schools were among 66 Oklahoma secondary-institutions that recently received the ACT’s 2012 College Readiness Award. Hulbert and Keys high schools were notified by the ACT Southwest Regional Office that their districts would be receiving denotation as a result of achievement over the past five years on the national college admissions examination.
Two criteria are considered for the award, said Hulbert Superintendent Dr. Marilyn Dewoody.
“[One is] increasing the number of students taking the ACT, and we did that, and at the same time we raised our average score, which is usually difficult to do,” she said. “Usually when you increase the number of students taking the test, you lower your score. Sometimes you have kids taking the test who may still be deciding what to do with the rest of their lives and aren’t sure if they’re going to college.”
Hulbert’s composite score in 2008 was 15.8, while the 2012 mark was 18.8, keeping the district 1.9 points below the state composite score average of 20.7.
“So over those years, we have increased our composite score three whole points. We had an 18.1 in English, a 17.6 in math, a 20.3 in reading and an 18.8 in science,” she said. “We’re still under the state’s average, but we’re making progress. In the next couple of years, we want to be above the state average.”
The national composite score average is 21.1.
According to the recognition letter sent to each school, the 80-plus percent of seniors in the state who took the ACT this year marked an all-time high, while scores in Oklahoma have been increasing since 2007. This suggests student test results have been used to make improvements in student academic readiness for post-secondary curriculum. The improved performance indicates a district’s focus and commitment to providing the level of education required to succeed in a college classroom, the award letter said.
“The ACT Southwest Region wanted to recognize those Oklahoma high schools that have made significant strides in increasing the college and career readiness of their graduates as demonstrated by their ACT score increases over the past five years. This can only happen as a result of the high school’s faculty and staff efforts and the dedication of [the school’s] students and parents to focus on college and career readiness and raise the level of academic readiness for all students,” said ACT Southwest Regional Manager and Assistant Vice President Karen Pennell. “Only 66 high schools in Oklahoma were honored for this superior level of accomplishment, which represents only 11 percent of all Oklahoma high schools.”
According to information provided by Keys, 41 students took the ACT in 2008, while 64 took it in 2012. The composite score in 2008 was 17.8; the 2012 class produced a 19.2 mark, down 1.2 points from last year’s composite of 20.4. Students have access to an ACT prep class while taking courses considered advanced-learning environments to help with college entrance exams, said Keys Superintendent Billie Jordan.
“We really encourage our students to take those higher-level courses or concurrent enrollment classes,” she said. “We also have AP [Advanced Placement], classes, and the teachers are committed to the kids’ doing a good job on the test. I think our performance shows that as well.”
As described on ACT.org, the ACT does not test students’ ability or capacity to learn or their intelligence quotient. Test questions are related to skills and knowledge a student has acquired in a secondary course setting.
The English portion of the test presents 75 questions in 45 minutes to measure standard written English and rhetorical skills, while the 35-minute reading segment presents 40 questions design to judge a student’s reading comprehension level. Students have 60 questions and 60 minutes to demonstrate math skills typically acquired in classes taken in their junior year. The science part requires 35 minutes for the 40 questions used to gauge interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning and problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences. The optional writing test presents a 30-minute window to assess writing skills emphasized in secondary English courses and in entry-level college composition classes.
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