Highland News Leader

ACT scores improve, but participation both at HHS and statewide has plummeted


Fewer and fewer students are taking the ACT in Highland, reflecting a statewide drop in participation in the elective college entrance test.

In Illinois, the ACT test was provided to students for roughly 15 years before the SAT became the state’s test. After the switch in 2017, participation and 2018’s figures show a steeper decline.

That’s true at Highland CUSD 5, where participation dropped by about 50 students or just 55 percent of students who graduated in 2018, said Highland CUSD 5 Assistant Superintendent Derek Hacke.

Hacke said the drop off was expected, but that the district is still offering courses preparing for the ACT and SAT. He said the average composite score for the district, 23.4, keeps the high school level with the state average, 23.9.

The ACT is a curriculum-based college readiness exam. The assessment consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science. Each test is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. A student’s composite score is the average of the four tests. The score for ACT’s optional writing test is reported separately and is not included within the composite score.

Both Highland High School and the state saw a boost in composite averages this year, from 23.1 and 21.4, respectively.

Hacke said that’s to be expected when students are using their own resources and time to take the test. He said that means more students who are college bound and more likely to do well on the test will take it.

“You’re probably going to get some of your better students interested in that,” Hacke said. “You’re testing the kids who are college bound. They want to take the ACT on their own and using their own resources to do so. In all fairness, you’d expect to see a bump.”