Good news for Arkansas and Missouri schools; more high school students are doing fairly well on the ACTs and more seem to be taking the test in order to pursue a college education. In Missouri, however, there seems to be some worries stemming from the ACT test results.
According to Mammoth Spring Schools, "Over the past five years at Mammoth Spring, not only have the number of students taking the ACT risen, but test scores have continued to steadily climb. In 2009, 32 students took the ACT test, up from the four-year average of 20 students. Scores were higher in 2009 in all four areas for the test which include English (20.5), math (19.8), reading (23.3) and science (21.2)." With the exception of English and math, students exceeded state scores.
"The district composite score was up two full points at 21.3, while the state composite was 20.6, up only 0.3 (points) from five years ago," according to the school.
Mammoth Spring Superintendent Ronald Taylor said, "The bottom line is we've got more kids taking it (the ACT)."
"It looks like a real good trend for the school," he said.
Taylor also said a summer ACT preparation course that has been offered by the school for the past three years has also helped students. He said those who take the course tend to increase their ACT score by three points.
Arkansas high school students seem to be showing an upward trend in preparing themselves for ACTs.
According to the Arkansas Department of Education, in 2005 the state average composite score was 20.3. The graduating class of 2009 has shown improvement with its average composite score being 20.6. Though still below the national average of 21.1, educators believe the gradual rise in the state's composite average to be a good sign. The ACT test is rated on a scale of one to 36.
"Because we are preparing students to be college and career ready an ACT is a good indicator of that level of preparation. We would have liked to have seen these scores climb again this year," Dr. Diana Julian, interim commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education, said. "However, I do believe ACT scores and other college and career ready measures will continue to increase in years to come as more students benefit from the Smart Core curriculum and our educators continue to focus on raising achievement levels for all students."
The Smart core curriculum includes several higher level classes in high school. "The scores we see this year indicate that the Smart Core curriculum is working to better prepare students for college," Dr. Jim Purcell, director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, said.
More students seem to be taking the test, as well. "Seventy-three percent of the 2009 seniors in the state took the ACT, making Arkansas one of the largest 'ACT states' in the nation," according to the Arkansas Department of Education. "The highest average composite score for a state testing 70 percent or more of its students occurred in Nebraska, which tested 72 percent of its students for a 22.1 composite score."
Less students will have to take remedial courses, as well. "Students attending Arkansas public colleges must score a 19 on the ACT math and English test to avoid mandatory remedial classes," according to the Arkansas Department of Education. "According to ACT, 54 percent of the 2009 graduating class will not require remediation in math and 64 percent will not require remediation in English."
Though Missouri as a whole is scoring better than the national average -- 21.6 to 21.1, Missouri's education system seems a little worried about the outcome and some local schools seem to just be missing the mark.
The ACT test results from the Alton R-IV School District reported that students scored 19.5 in English, 19 in math, 20.2 in reading and 20.7 in science. The composite average for the school was 20. A total of 25 students took the exam, which was down by four from last year.
The Couch R-I School District's test results were 18.1 in English, 17.7 in math, 19.3 in reading and 18.7 in science. The composite average was 18.6. Though the school scored fairly low, on a positive note, four more students took the exam in 2009 than in 2008.
Oregon Howell R-III (Koshkonong) School District had a composite score of 19.2 out of the 15 students who took the test. The school's scores were 19.2 in English, 18.1 in math, 20 in reading and 19.2 in science.
The Thayer School District reported they had two Bright Flight students, which means these students scored 31 or over on the ACT. A total of 31 students took the test out of 44 seniors. The school's scores were 21.6 in English, 19.8 in math, 22.7 in reading and 21.9 in science. The composite average for the school tide with the state average at 21.6.
"The students did very well on their ACTs this year," Thayer School Counselor Donna Franz said.
According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), "Last year, 46,923 Missouri high school graduates took the ACT exam. This was about 300 fewer than the previous year and represented 67 percent of the Class of 2009."
According to DESE, the ACT organization is looking beyond the composite ACT score and analyzing students' test results to predict college readiness in four academic areas -- English, algebra, biology and social sciences. Both nationally and in Missouri, the majority of students do not meet the "college readiness benchmarks" that ACT says can predict whether students will be able to earn at least a "C" in typical, first-year college courses.
"We need to raise the rigor, across the board for most of our students," Chris L. Nicastro, commissioner of education, said. "Too many kids need remediation when they get to college, too many struggle to meet collegiate expectations and too many never finish their degrees. Only 25 percent of Missouri students meet the ACT-defined benchmarks in all four subject areas. We also exceed the national average (23 percent) on this measure, and that is encouraging. We must be concerned that so many students are leaving Missouri high schools without the knowledge and skills they need to make the most of their college experience."
The State Board of Education adopted new graduation requirements for high school students in the fall of 2005. Those standards are in effect this year and apply to the class of 2010.
"The new minimum standards require all public school students to earn 24 units of credit -- including four units of English and three units each in the areas of math, science and social studies. Many students will be required to take additional core academic classes under these standards. This will translate into better preparation and better performance," Nicastro said.
To compare the previously mention schools' test results to the national average, the ACT reported that nationally students who took the ACT scored 20.6 in English, 21 in math, 21.4 in reading and 20.9 in science. As mentioned, the national composite average was 21.1.