LaRue County High School’s 2012 ACT scores in all content areas are the highest the school has produced since the test that measures readiness for college was mandated for all Kentucky high school juniors in 2008.
“In looking at the average composite ACT score, LCHS passed up 16 high schools in the state moving from 61st to 45th in the rankings, placing the school among the top 20 percent of high schools in the state,” said Amanda Reed, district instructional supervisor. “In comparison to schools in our local area, LCHS ranks second.”
The ACT, which assesses English, reading, mathematics and science, is scored on a scale of one to 36.
Compared to statewide average scores, LCHS scored higher in English (20.0, 18.4); math (19.4, 18.8); reading (20.1, 19.0); science (19.7, 19.1) and composite (19.9, 19.0)
LaRue’s composite score was equal to or better than 80 percent of the 230 high schools taking the test in Kentucky. In English, LaRue’s results fell at the 82 percentile; 80th percentile in reading, 79th percentile in math, and 74th percentile in science.
Kentucky’s overall composite score, with 44,516 public school juniors taking the test, increased slightly from 18.8 in 2011. The national average composite, which includes private as well as public schools, lay at 21.1.
Sam Sanders, superintendent, said the school’s improvements come from a combination of several years’ worth of planning and coming together.
“I'm so proud for our students, staff and community not just because this is the highest we have ever scored, but also because the five-year trend shows so much positive growth,” Sanders said. “I’d also like to thank our board of education members for their support. Ultimately, they are the ones that approve the recommendations from the administration that allow all this to happen.
“We are fortunate in LaRue County to have a board of education for the most part focused on doing what is best for students,” he continued. “There are many other school districts in Kentucky that struggle because of hidden agendas of board members. We are moving closer to our goal of becoming a ‘top-10 percent’ school district.”
Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning accountability model includes a college/career readiness component through which schools and districts will be held accountable for the percentage of students who are considered ready for college and/or careers.
The college-ready indicator includes students who met the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education Systemwide Benchmarks for reading (20), English (18) and mathematics (19) on the ACT.
These benchmark scores represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses. Students reaching benchmarks generally are not required to take college remedial courses in those subjects.
At LCHS, 64 percent of the juniors taking the test met the benchmark in English (compared to 52.2 percent statewide), 42.5 percent in math (38.6) and 51.3 percent in reading (41.9).
“This year for the first time, the statewide release of the percentage of students meeting benchmark scores is based on Kentucky benchmarks rather than national ACT benchmarks so we can’t compare to last year’s scores/ranks since they’re based on different criteria. English is the same, but math and reading are different,” Reed said.
A look at LaRue’s ACT results over the past five years shows a growth trend in each academic area.
Paul Mullins, LCHS principal, said the school is raising the level of expectations for its students across the board and is providing the necessary help to see that each student has the opportunity to rise to that level.
“We’re identifying students early through practice tests and that allows us to provide interventions focusing on those areas where students need improvement,” he said. “Our practice tests also have the same format and types of questions as the ACT, so that helps the students be familiar with its structure.”
Reed related that the ACT does not send any specific details regarding student performance on particular content items, making it difficult to know the details on strengths and weaknesses beyond the content area scores.
Two other assessments in the ACT family of tests, however, EXPLORE, given in eighth grade and PLAN, in tenth, yield an item-by-item analysis.
“We are using those results to help up identify gaps and fill them in before students take the ACT in March as 11th graders,” said Reed. “After that March administration, we use the results to group students for interventions to help them reach benchmark scores.”
The school also prepares students for the ACT with an online program, free to LCHS students, called testGEAR that features over 50 hours of instruction.
“TestGear is a web-based program students can access from anywhere with Internet service, so they can work on it from home as well,” Reed said.
Among testGEAR components is a 40-minute diagnostic test, 20 interactive lessons covering 40 test-taking strategies, 46 interactive tutorials covering 178 content-specific skills, two full-length and 15 practice tests with immediate scoring and feedback and a 3,000-plus word vocabulary lab.
“The use of EXPLORE and PLAN is helping our growth,” Reed agreed. “In addition, the new standards are in line with ACT standards.”
“Quality Core exams now required by the state at the high school level are directly linked to ACT standards, so for the first time in Kentucky all of the standards we're expecting students to master are truly aligned.”
LCHS has added another PLAN administration this year as well to the one mandated for sophomores. “We will give the PLAN test to all ninth graders in September and use those results as well,” she said.
Students can take the ACT as many times as they want, but the March ACT is the one that is required for all juniors and is the only one that is free to students.
“Our intention is to provide interventions and encourage students to retake the ACT their senior year to boost their scores to avoid remedial college coursework,” Reed said.