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ACT scores on the rise in Mehlville


By SCOTT MILLER

Staff Reporter

Mehlville School District students im-proved their ACT Assessment test scores this year, jumping the district's composite score one-half point above the state average and more than one point above the national average.

The increase ended a recent decline in ACT scores throughout the district, and now administrators are working to further improve scores.

The nationwide college preparatory tool measures student learning in high school and assesses students' ability to complete college-level work. Universities across the country use the results to recruit the most qualified students.

Mehlville students increased their overall or composite scores on average by .9 to 22 of 36 points, according to a presentation at the Sept. 30 Board of Education meeting.

Roughly one of every 5,000 students na-tionwide earns a perfect score of 36 points, according to the official ACT Web site.

Of the test's four subgroups, Mehlville students on average received 21.7 in English, 21.9 in math, 21.8 in reading and 22 in science. The only score slightly be-low state average was reading — the state average is 22. All other scores exceeded state and national averages.

Mehlville students last year on average scored 21.1 overall, 20.9 in English, 20.8 in math, 21.7 in reading and 21.6 in science.

During the past few years, ACT scores at Mehlville slowly had declined, Cindy Lynch, assistant superintendent for student services, told the board. So the district gathered a group of about 40 administrators, department heads, teachers, parents and students to discuss how to improve ACT performance.

"Last year, we put together a college preparation team, and we looked at a lot of different issues. We did a lot of studies throughout the year," Lynch said. "The purpose of this team was to study the current college preparation activities, and then we looked at a lot of data. We made some hypothesis about why we felt our scores at that time were not doing well. We wanted to work with parents to improve their satisfaction with our college preparation activities, and it became quite clear early on that college preparation needed to start as young as sixth grade in our middle schools and then continue on through graduation.

"We went through hypothesis as to why the district's ACT scores were not improving and we did find that the past three years we had — very slight — but the trend was a very slight decline," Lynch continued. "And we're happy to see it going up, and what we need to do is to make sure that it continues to improve as well as start a trend. We don't want just a spike here. We want to make sure it continues."

After reviewing graduate surveys, course sequences and grade-point averages and consulting with other districts and Cam-bridge Educational Services Inc., a company designed to help schools across the country improve college preparatory programs, district officials developed an im-provement plan.

"The improvement plan has three main goals — improving ACT testing process, implementing changes in instructional practices and involving parents in the post-secondary plan," Lynch said.

The improvement plan also "encourages students to retake the test at least once. Studies have shown that students who take the ACT more than once, 55 percent of them get higher scores," she said.

The district is considering aligning curriculum according to ACT standards and teaching ACT testing strategies.

Not all students take the three-hour test. Students must register and pay $28. Mehl-ville School District average scores are based upon results from 2004 graduates who took the test. Some may not have actually taken the test as seniors.

Some may have taken it has juniors and didn't retake it as seniors, but their scores still count toward the district's overall 2004 rating.

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