Are your students ready for college? Dickinson behind state average in ACT scores

Are your students ready for college?

Just 14 percent of Dickinson Public Schools tested students were considered by the ACT to be college-ready in every subject — 6% less than the percentage of students tested statewide.

The ACT determines the level of readiness through benchmark scores. A benchmark score is the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in the subject’s corresponding college course.

The benchmark scores are as follows: 18 for English Composition, 22 for College Algebra, 22 for Social Science and 23 for Biology.

The percentage of Dickinson students deemed college-ready by the ACT is lower than the state percentage in each subject. College English Composition has the largest gap, with Dickinson having 39% of students considered college ready, while the state average is 52%.


In terms of average ACT scores, Dickinson is slightly lower than the state average in all categories with the biggest gap being just one point away. The state's scores, much like Dickinson's, have reached a five-year low, although the decline is not significant.

Dickinson High School is taking a few different steps to move its scores in the right direction, one of which is the move toward becoming a High Reliability School .

"High Reliability Schools is an ongoing process in education where the staff needs to look at the standards they’re teaching, prioritize their standards, and determine the proficiency of those students," Principal Kevin Hoherz said.

The school will be prioritizing its content standards, which are the skills the state determines students need to know.

"It gets kind of overwhelming if you’re looking at all the standards, so we asked the staff to set their essential standards, 10-20 standards that (students) need to know by the time they leave that class. They (use) proficiency scales to see if they’re proficient or not. It's a rubric to determine whether they've met the standard or not. It's on a 1,2,3,4. If you reach a 3, you're proficient in that area," Hoherz said.

The school's administration also expects the new academy format to help improve scores.

"The idea of the academies is that if the students are more interested, they're going to be more engaged, and if they're more engaged, the learning is going to be enhanced. Some might say, 'I don't need Algebra,' but if they can see how Algebra is applicable to the academy that they're in, they might pay attention more," Hoherz said.

The school will also begin using the ACT in place of the state assessment , which will give students more exposure to the test.


Also, while not a result of the test scores, the school's English department will review and possibly revise its curriculum.

"We get so many students coming in from other states. North Dakota standards are going to be different than California's ... or any other standards," Hoherz said. "They're coming in from a different state that has a different system. They're being tested on ours and put on our record, but we've only had them for maybe six months before they're (tested) ... We're trying to get everybody caught up and proficient to the standards."

He said he doesn't blame new students, though, and stressed that they do have students from other states who are doing really well.

Hoherz said that the overcrowding in the school could be one contributing factor.

"It's proven that the smaller the class sizes, the more learning takes place. We're pushing our class limits ... Our staff are saying there's more discpline issues, and that's contributed to the larger class sizes. When you have to have a teacher take 5-10 minutes to discipline a student, that's 5-10 minutes of instruction that they're taking away. It's a distraction to the students," he said.

Kayla Henson is a former Dickinson Press reporter.
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