Austin ACT scores below state; High performers score better

Published 10:32 am Thursday, September 17, 2015

The average ACT score for Austin High School’s graduating class of 2015 are below the state average; however, Austin students gained points over the previous year, while the state dropped.

Austin’s ACT composite score was 19.6 compared to the state’s composite score of 22.7. While the state dropped about two-tenths from last year, Austin rose about one-tenth. Educational Services Director John Alberts said although all Minnesota public high schools administered the ACT exam to every junior this spring for the first time, Austin has been doing that since 2013, and the scores for the 2014-15 graduating class reflect over 90 percent of Austin students who tested and around 76 percent of state students who tested, while the 2015-16 graduating class scores — which had all juniors test — will come out at the end of 2016.



“We have a much higher participation rate than the state does, so we have a greater pool to draw from,” Alberts explained.

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Department of Education data shows 92 percent of the statewide 2016 graduating class took the exam on the state’s dime, with an average score of 20.5 percent. That’s under the 22.7 percent that Minnesota’s 2015 graduating class scored, but only about two-thirds of that class took the exam while in high school.

Many of last year’s juniors will take the test again on their own time as seniors, so the 20.5 figure is likely to rise. Austin’s 2016 graduating class’ average score is not out yet.

Department of Education spokesman Josh Collins said average scores were expected to fall when the state made the ACT available to all students. But the move likely nudged some students toward enrolling in college.

“We know giving the test to every student is an opportunity for students to discover they may have opportunities they didn’t know they have,” he said.

However, the Legislature ended statewide ACT administration after just one year. Starting with this school year, all schools will be required to administer the test, but students who want to take it will opt in rather than opt out. The state has set aside $3 million to cover exam fees in the spring, and test provider Pearson will cover any additional costs for the year as part of its settlement over technical failures with the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, or MCAs. After this school year, school districts must cover their students’ ACT exam fees, Collins said.

Although Austin’s composite score is still below the state’s, Alberts said the scores of students in the top percentage rates in Austin are above the state’s high performers.

“That’s where we start looking more specifically behind the scenes,” he said.

In math, the percentage of students who took algebra 1, algebra 2, geometry, trigonometry and calculus was 26.9 percent, while the state was at 24.9 percent. The percentage of Austin students who take biology, chemistry and physics was 25.9 percent, while the state was at 23.5 percent.

“We’re performing higher than the state average in those things,” Alberts said.

He said the top 10 percent of graduating seniors for 2015 average score was 29.8 percent, while the top 20 percent was 28.2 percent, and the top 50 percent was 24.8 percent. While the top performers scores were above the state scores, the lower performing students’ scores in Austin were below the state’s scores.

“When you look at the students who aren’t taking as rigorous of courses, their scores aren’t as high as the state average,” Alberts said. “So that’s an area that we obviously want to work on.”

Alberts hopes the district will continue to meet student needs and see growth and good performance.

“It’s ongoing work just to make sure that all of our courses really do meet the needs of students, and push them and help them grow individually,” Alberts said.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.