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School District 833 ACT scores dip as more students test

When it comes to this year’s ACT test scores, more meant less.

A record number of students took the standardized college-readiness exam last year. As a result, the average composite score statewide dropped from 22.7 to 21.1

District 833 was not spared the dip. Its graduating class of 2016, which took the test last year as juniors, posted an average composite score of 22.3, compared to 24.1 last year.

However, they still outscored the state composite average and the national average of 20.8.

“We were expecting a little bit of a decline in our scores because of the expansion of the test,” said Brian Booth, director of professional development and accountability. “I think overall we were quite pleased and in fact thrilled. We’re above the state average and above the national average.”

The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science. Each test is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, and a student's composite score is the average of the four test scores.

Park High School posted an average composite score of 20.1, down from 22 last year. East Ridge High School’s average composite of 23.6 compared to 25.2 last year, and Woodbury High School scored an average composite of 23.4 compared to 24.8 last year. But a total of 1,380 students in District 833 took the test compared to 1,043 students last year, according to information the district released Sept. 2.

The tradeoff is worth it, Boothe said.

“The purpose of expanding the test and allowing more students to take it is that it opens up opportunities for students who never would have otherwise taken the ACT,” he said.

In 2014, the legislature approved funding to make the test mandatory for all high school and charter school juniors, regardless of whether they planned to attend college. That resulted in a 37 percent increase in the testing pool, or an additional 17,283 students statewide.

The ACT test is not mandatory next year, but school districts will be required to offer juniors and seniors the opportunity to take it on a school day, Boothe said.

“We have stories of students who had never thought to take the ACT, had never thought about college, who then took the test and realized that they had the opportunity to go to college even though they didn’t think they did,” he said. “They applied and moved on to a post-secondary institution. Those are the stories that we think validate what we’re doing.”

Minnesota had previously posted the highest ACT scores among the states where half or more of high schoolers took the test.

In an Aug. 24 news release, state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said that states who expanded their testing pool also had lower scores overall. But Minnesota students had the highest scores of all the 18 states that provide the ACT test to all juniors.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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