ACT scores from assessment’s final year released

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 1, 2015

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Results from the spring ACT assessment of 11th-grade students are in, and overall, local students maintained similar scores from year to year.

At Lake Shore High School, the composite score of 19.7 was down slightly from the 2013-14 composite score of 20. The juniors at the school had the same English and math scores over the two years, at 18.6 and 21.5, respectively, but dropped slightly from 18.7 to 18.3 in reading and from 20.5 to 20.1 in science, according to scores provided by the Michigan Department of Education.

At North Lake High School, the alternative high school run by Lake Shore Public Schools, the composite score for 2014-15 was 13.4, with students achieving a 12.1 score in English and 14.2 in math.

Mary Faley, assistant superintendent of instructional services in Lake Shore Public Schools, said the high school’s scores are very similar to last year’s but show a trend of growth similar to that across the county and state over the nine years that the ACT test has been given as a standardized assessment to Michigan high school juniors.

“Over the past nine years, we’ve seen some tremendous ... improvement in our scores ... so we’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made,” she said.

This is the last year that the ACT will be the official state assessment for Michigan high school students, however. In spring 2016, 11th-graders will take the SAT test instead.

With the new SAT test to be given to this year’s high school students, Faley said they don’t expect a big difference in scores, but “that remains to be seen.”

There is no science component to the SAT, however, so that will be put into the M-STEP component of the test for 11th-grade students, she said.

“We’re always looking at the standards; we’re always looking at the data, reviewing our instructional practices in light of the data,” she said. “Because scores can vary from year to year, it’s important to have that longitudinal data. Now we’ll be starting over again, so I think it will be fine.”

Lakeview High School ACT composite scores also dropped slightly from year to year, with this year’s composite average score at 19.8 compared with 20 in 2013-14. English and reading scores stayed the same at 20.2 and 19.9, respectively, while math scores dipped from 19.2 to 19 and science fell from 20.3 to 19.9.

“It was a different test, portions of it, (so district officials were) not surprised,” said Tracy Van Peeren, Lakeview Public Schools assistant superintendent. “We’re still not totally sure how that impacted it.”

She said the district’s lowest scores come in math, so that’s the area they are focusing on, being about a half-point below Macomb County and state averages in the same subject.

Still, she said the gains that the district has made in the past five years are cause for celebration.

“We’re talking different kids. You are going to have slight dips and slight increases, just naturally on the basis of how that testing goes,” Van Peeren said. “We work hard to get those, but we’re never satisfied.

“We’re doing it for the learning behind it, so kids are better prepared for college and post-high school opportunities.”

She agreed that the difference between the ACT and SAT tests shouldn’t result in wholly different scores for the district next year.

“If your kids are prepared for the knowledge and understanding of concepts, they’re going to do well on the test,” she said. “If we’re providing good core instruction every day in those classrooms, it’s going to translate into good test scores.”

South Lake Schools officials are pleased with the high school’s growth in reading scores, which increased from 18 to 18.6 from 2013-14 to 2014-15.

“Looking across the county, we pretty much match the statewide increase in scores,” said John Thero, South Lake director of instruction and assessment. “The teachers over at the high school have been working incredibly hard, especially on reading.”

South Lake High School composite score averages went from 18.4 in 2013-14 to 18.1 in 2014-15, with English at 17.4 this year compared with 18 last year, math at 17.3 compared with 18.1 last year, and science at 18.5 compared with 19.1 a year ago.

The high school has been focusing on offering reading programs for those who struggle, as well as increasing participation in higher-level courses.

“The high school staff has just been working incredibly hard making sure they’re (offering) ... bell-to-bell teaching (with) no wasted time,” he said.

This year, also, the school hosted “Test Fest,” where 9th- through 11th-graders took practice PSAT or SAT tests to learn strategies for the new assessment.

Teachers have also undergone training, and will attend more training sessions, to learn the nuances of the SAT to better teach their students to do well on the test.

“When you look at the correlation, there’s not much of a difference between an ACT score and an SAT score, especially since they’ve revamped the test,” Thero said. “I believe that the students and teachers will transition just fine.”