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ACT scores show Austin is below state average

Published 10:03am Tuesday, August 26, 2014

While Minnesota retains its top spot among states on the ACT college entrance exam, Austin schools scored below the state average.

“The average composite score for the district is 19.5, and the state was 22.9,” Educational Services Director John Alberts said.

Yet Alberts said the data comparison does not completely reflect Austin Public Schools. While only about 76 percent of Minnesota students took the ACT in 2014, about 90 percent of Austin students took the test.

“Virtually all of our students take the ACT,” Alberts said.

In 2013, the district started requiring all eligible students to take the ACT, where in previous years, many students decided not to take the ACT for a variety of reasons, such as their college only required the SAT or another assessment test, or they weren’t planning to go to college. Most Minnesota schools did not require students to take the ACT in the 2013-2014 school year. The district hopes to make the test become more accessible to students who may not have been able to afford it or been able to take it outside of school. They also hope to help students decide future plans. For example, if a student didn’t think he or she would do well on the test, they may not have taken it. But they may receive a better score that helps push them toward college.

“We’re promoting this concept that it’s important to be thinking about life after high school and what [future] plans would be,” Alberts said. “One of the things we wanted to make sure was all students had some idea of what their ACT scores would be, even if they weren’t thinking about going to college.”

The district also hoped to use the ACT scores to help them find out where their students were.

Alberts said since the ACT remains relatively constant, it can be a better way to gauge where students are at than the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) tests, which may change. The reading MCA test format was changed last year.

Because of this discrepancy, the district also figures out scores with the top 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 percent of students who take the ACT to better measure their scores compared to Minnesota’s scores.

“So we’re not just looking at the overall composite [scores],” Alberts said. “Simply because we have such a large population taking the assessment.”

According to Alberts, before they started requiring all students to take the test, the district’s scores were fairly close to the state scores.

“We’re just trying to make a more equitable participation, also knowing that it will drive down our score,” Alberts said.

He said the school’s scores were a slight decrease from last year, but there were also 46 more students who took the test this year. Overall, 257 graduating seniors took the ACT this year.

“I’m pleased that we remained relatively stable with all the students taking the assessment,” Alberts said. “We’ll hopefully continue to [get] a better sense of how well our students are prepared.”

Overall, Minnesota high school seniors’ scores rank the state first among states in which at least half of graduates took the exam. This is the ninth straight year that Minnesota students topped the list.

State graduates also finished first in the percentage of students considered college-ready in each of the four subject areas tested — English, math, science and reading. This year, 39 percent of state graduates tested as proficient on the ACT exam.

This academic year, all Minnesota high school juniors will begin taking the ACT under new graduation requirements approved by the Legislature last year.

Wisconsin scored second on the ACT this year with 22.2 out of a possible 36.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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