8/28/13 ACT testing brings ABSS scores down

ACT testing brings ABSS scores down
All high school juniors now take the test every October
By Isaac Groves The Times-News 8/28/13  
Reprinted with permission.       

ACT — BY THE NUMBERS
Looking at the ACT numbers for the Alamance-Burlington School System


ENGLISH

  • 34 percent of ABSS juniors met ACT benchmarks in 2012.
  • 40 percent of juniors statewide met them.
  • 38 percent locally met benchmarks in 2013.
  • 43 percent statewide.

MATH

  • 27 percent locally met benchmarks in 2012.
  • 26 percent locally met them in 2013.
  • 30 percent statewide in both 2012 and 2013.

READING

  • 27 percent locally met benchmarks in 2012.
  • 29 percent locally met them in 2013.
  • 34 percent statewide in 2012 and 2013.

SCIENCE

  • 13 percent locally met benchmarks in 2012.
  • 12 percent met them in 2013.
  • 16 percent statewide in 2012 and 2013.

ALL FOUR BENCHMARKS

  • 9 percent of ABSS juniors met benchmarks in all four subjects in 2012 and 2013.
  • 13 percent statewide in 2012 and 2013.
   All juniors in Alamance-Burlington high schools now take the ACT test, which is bringing the county’s scores down, school officials said.

   Before 2012, juniors could choose whether or not to take ACT, but now all juniors in the state take the test every October. The number of juniors taking ACT in Alamance County jumped from 119 in 2011 to 1,468 in 2012. So this is no longer a small group of college-bound students taking the test.

   ACT will be part of the school system’s report card from the state starting in 2014. ACT, from a nonprofit company once called American College Testing, is supposed to show how ready students are for college.

   The composite scores for English, math, reading and science dropped in Alamance County by 2.8 points from 2011 to 2012 to 17.4. The composite is the score the state will use to judge the county.

   The standard, or benchmark, school districts are going for is 17 points, the lowest score to be admitted to the University of North Carolina system.

   So, the county is meeting the benchmark, but lags behind the state average.

   Scores for students across the state dropped by 3.7 points from 2011 to 2012.

   The state average score was 1.7 points higher than the county’s in 2011, 0.8 points higher than local scores in 2012 and 0.7 points in 2013.

   So, the gap is narrowing.

   Students take the ACT in the first semester of their junior year, three semesters before college.

   They have not all studied all the material on the test, said Steve Achey, ABSS director of accountability, research and evaluation, in his presentation to the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education on Monday.

   The change to universal testing means there is not yet much to learn from looking at the ACT scores.

   Achey told the board test scores tell more over time than looking at changes year to year.

   Achey said the district will work on raising local test scores by changing the curriculum to better prepare students and get more students taking advanced classes.

   Students have the choice to take ACT closer to graduation, which might give them a better score for college entry, but will not contribute to the county’s ACT scores.

   ACT is one of four standardized tests the state wants students to take from the same company.

   Last October, 10th-graders took the PLAN test, 8thgraders took EXPLORE and some students will take the WorkKeys test in December to assess their job skills.

   Starting in 2014 the ACT and WorkKey test scores will be part of a high-school accountability model including four-year graduation rates and the strength of math classes.