Frankfort High School juniors improved their average score more than a point on the ACT exam given in the spring, and scores remained flat at county schools.
Students at all three local high schools scored at or above their peers statewide in most areas.
Frankfort Independent Schools Superintendent Rich Crowe said he’s pleased with the results, released today by the Kentucky Department of Education.
The ACT, a college entrance exam, is scored on a scale of one to 36 in English, math, reading and science. Students are given an overall, or composite, score in the same range.
Since 2008, lawmakers have required all public school juniors to take the exam.
ACT scores improved in all four subjects at FHS. Composite scores increased from 18.7 in 2011 to 19.8 this year.
That’s just shy of the 20-point goal school officials set last year. Crowe said the school’s faculty and staff pushed for a stronger emphasis on learning targets in each day’s lesson.
He also pointed to the school’s move to standards-based grading. For each new topic or unit of study, teachers outline the learning goals and detailed information about how students will be graded, and students are allowed to redo assignments and tests to improve.
“While we didn’t reach our goal, we did pretty well,” Crowe said this morning.
“They got a lot of mileage out of their kids and staff, and I commend them for their efforts. We were glad our scores went up, but we’d still like to be well above the state average.”
Statewide, the average composite score was 19, up over last year’s 18.8 average. Kentucky’s 44,516 high school juniors showed an improvement in scores for three subjects on the ACT test in 2012, while reading scores stayed the same.
FHS has set a goal of 22 for this school year’s test, Crowe said. When asked what the school can do to reach it, he said “more of the same” efforts that raised its score last year.
“That is a huge, huge, huge goal,” he said. “I wish them well – it’s going to take a lot of work, but they’re prepared to do the work.”
County results showed less improvement.
Juniors at Franklin County High School raised their scores in English and math, but fell in reading and science. Their composite score ticked up to 19.1 from 19 the previous year.
At Western Hills High School, scores increased in English, but stayed steady or dropped otherwise. The composite score dropped from 19.1 to 19 in 2012.
Jim Masters, director of high schools for Franklin County Public Schools, discussed the results Monday with school board members.
He said Kentucky schools collect plenty of data, including the ACT, but “what matters is what we do with it.”
Masters said his goal would be to promote college readiness among parents and students – starting in elementary school. High school is often too late to play catch-up, he said.
Most parents want their kids to go to college or technical school after graduation, but “not very many of them know what it takes to make it happen,” he said.
Teachers must also get kids used to taking timed tests, he said.
The ACT math exam, for example, is an hour long and has 60 questions. Math teachers could give students one minute to do a math problem every day when they enter the classroom, he said.
Masters said there’s no quick fix. Teachers must demonstrate good learning strategies, focus on tests throughout the year to gauge students’ progress, and teach concepts again with a new method if students don’t understand.
The Kentucky Department of Education today also released statewide results for graduating seniors, for whom the test is not mandatory. They earned a composite score of 19.5, slightly better than last year’s 19.2 average.
The national composite score, which includes both public and private school students, is 21.1.
The number of juniors meeting national college-readiness benchmarks was not part of Wednesday’s statewide data release, as it has been in the past.
The benchmarks – developed by ACT – indicate that students who earn at least an 18 in English, 22 in math, 21 in reading, and 24 in science will likely earn a B or C in that subject in college.
The State Journal has requested information from local school officials and plans a follow-up.