Austin students on par with national ACT tests

Published 10:06 am Thursday, March 12, 2015

Source: Austin Public Schools

Source: Austin Public Schools

Austin Public Schools students’ scores on ACT prep tests left educators optimistic they’ll perform well when the ACTs roll around.

Austin eighth- and 10th-grade students scored close to the national average on the ACT Explore and Plan assessment tests, which Austin students have taken for at least five years, according to Director of Research Evaluation and Assessment Corey Haugen.

“I think that the ACT Explore and Plan assessments for our eighth- and 10th-graders were pretty much spot on with the national averages, and we are using that as a future predictor of performance on their ACT assessments in 11th-grade,” Haugen said. “With that we’re hopeful that we’ll continue to see increases in our ACT scores going into the future.”

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Haugen said eighth-graders did well on the ACT Explore test, but still have room for improvement.

“We did fall slightly below that national average of a 15.5, we landed at that 14.9, so we have a little bit of room for growth,” Haugen said. “But overall we’re in pretty good shape.”

The 10th-grade average was closer to the nation’s scores, with Austin students’ average at 17.1 and the national average at 17.2.

“We have a lot of students that performed really well on those particular assessments,” he said.

Both tests directly correlate to the students’ future predicted performance on their official ACT, and also how well the students may do in college. Haugen said though the scores are below the nation, that does not mean the district is doing worse.

“When you take a look at the top 50 percent of our kids, they’re scoring a 17.6 on average, which is definitely above that 14.9 [overall average],” Haugen said.

The test scores are used for a variety of things; teachers use them to help place students in honors courses, and some questions pertain to students’ career interests.

“You can start building that pathway through high school to get the appropriate courses,” Haugen said. “So that you’re getting into those college ready strands and paths that you want to be on for your potential career.”

The scores also help the district compare different groups within the students, such as males’ versus females’ scores, free and reduced lunch and different ethnicities. Some of the lowest scores came from students with English as a second language, but while results showed low scores in English and reading, scores were up for 10th-grade math. Haugen noted while many people may categorize all or most non-white students as having English as a second language, this is not the case, as there is a low percentage of students in both eighth and tenth grade that have English as a second language.

By comparing the breakdown of these scores, administrators are able to get an idea of which groups need more help to get them ready for the ACT and college.

“When I look at this, I’m disadvantaged if I’m free and reduced, and then you compound it further with I’m a male, now I’ve got two strikes against me,” Haugen said. “That’s what we want the [Austin Public Schools] board to glean from these pieces of information, is that there are populations — predominately that free and reduced — is a big indicator of how well they’re going to do on these assessments as to probable college assessments.”