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District considers revamping testing after decline in ACT scores

Dickinson High School's most recent ACT scores were slightly below state average in each category and were slightly lower than its scores last year in each category except reading. The district is discussing changing its high school testing strat...

The chart and graph compare the district's average ACT scores to the state's average ACT scores.
The chart and graph compare the district's average ACT scores to the state's average ACT scores.

Dickinson High School's most recent ACT scores were slightly below state average in each category and were slightly lower than its scores last year in each category except reading. The district is discussing changing its high school testing strategy as a means of improving them.

"We're not too worried," superintendent Shon Hocker said. "If those scores were down (to) 16, 17, I would be really worried. Having those scores hover around 20, and pretty much for the last five years, they've always been right close to 20. ... Right now, we're okay."

The scores referenced are the ACT's benchmark scores, which are the minimum score needed on a subject area to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75 percent change of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding college course. The benchmark for English is 18, 22 for Algebra and 23 for Biology.

In each case, the change in score for last year is less than a point, the biggest change being in English, which went from a 18.3 average last year to a 17.9 average.

The biggest gap between the district and the state's scores are also in English, where the state's average score is 19.1 compared to 17.9.

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To improve its scores, the school is looking at changing its testing. Currently, students take different tests during their freshman, sophomore and junior years.

"Now, we do the NWEA (NorthWest Evaluation Association) for the freshmen, and we do our state assessment for sophomores, and we do our ACT for our juniors," Kevin Hoherz, DHS principal, said. "It's three different types of tests. They're all good tests, but they're not really aligned. It's tough for data to compare NWEA to state assessment and then to the ACT."

The testing schedule has been changed in recent years, too. Hoherz said this is the second year the sophomores have taken the state assessment. Prior to that, juniors were taking it and the ACT.

"To be honest, I'd have so many students say they didn't care about the state assessment because it didn't mean anything," he said. "They just cared about the ACT because that's what the colleges look at for scholarships and entrance."

The school and the district are considering moving toward a focus on the ACT. Students would take a different version of the ACT during their freshman, sophomore and junior years.

"Freshmen would take - it's called the Aspire test - which is the first level of the high school ACT test," Hoherz said. "As a sophomore, they would take the pre-ACT to give them a better look at what the ACT is going to be like. Then as a junior, we would do the ACT. We would align our three tests in high school with the ACT program."

Although the three ACT tests are different, they are closely aligned. After students take their sophomore test, the district should be able to better predict how they will do on the ACT the following year and what skills they need to work on to improve, Hoherz said.

Hoherz said some schools in other states don't make the change because the ACT isn't aligned to their state standards.

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"My belief is, if you're teaching to the standards like we're supposed to be, you're gonna hit what you need to cover," he said. "It's not about teaching what's on the ACT ... You should do okay on whatever test we take."

Related Topics: DICKINSON HIGH SCHOOL
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