Education

Most metro-east schools better than state average on ACT

Metro-east principals and superintendents are either crowing or nearly silent about the ACT test scores for the graduating class of 2015, with local private schools crowing most of all.

“We’re over the state average in everything,” said principal Dennis Litteken of Mater Dei Catholic High School in Breese. The class of 2015 graduated 107 students, whose average ACT score was 24.7.

The ACT is a national college admissions exam that takes about 3 hours for 215 multiple choice questions. It is an achievement test, measuring learned knowledge in English, mathematics, reading and science and is administered six times a year.

Earlier this week, school districts received their reports for the graduating class of 2015. The scores were from the last test the student took, which may or may not have been the student’s top score.

Mater Dei and Governor French, both private schools, have the highest scores of those in the area that reported to the News-Democrat.

“I’m pretty sure that 25.3 is going to beat everybody around,” said Philip Paeltz, headmaster of Governor French Academy in Belleville.

He did say the class of 14 students was “a little bit” down from last year.

Juniors and seniors in high school generally take the test with college in mind. Neither McKendree University nor Southern Illinois University Edwardsville representatives were available to provide the average ACT score of this year’s freshman class. But McKendree’s website suggests a composite score of at least 20, and a professor at SIUE said incoming freshmen averaged about 22.

Eight of the 13 metro-east districts providing composite scores on Tuesday had average scores of at least 22. Ten had scores of at least 20.

“Whether or not the ACT is a good predictor of college success depends on how you interpret the research and whose research you’re reading,” said Susan Breck, the interim chair of curriculum, instruction and special education at SIUE.

Triad superintendent Leigh Lewis said the school’s composite score of 21.5 is about the same as it usually has been.

“I don’t want to say it’s acceptable, but at the same time I think it’s indicative of many high schools in Illinois, that you don’t see a huge change in their composite,” Lewis said. “When I look at the other scores and look at the benchmarks of where kids should be, Triad is right where we expect kids to be when taking the ACT. I think that’s positive, and shows that the students have been showing progress and demonstrating their college or career readiness.”

Althoff’s average was 22.6, but vice principal Pam Schumacher said the top 30 percent scored a 27.7.

“They have us at 22.6, but the top ten percent of our class scored a 30 or better, which is great,” she said.

Smart students who keep trying, along with involved parents, make a big difference, educators say, as well as a dedicated faculty.

“I’d be willing to say over half of our kids take it more than two times, they probably take it three times,” said Litteken.

Columbia High School’s composite average was 22.5.

“We have a very strong, very good parental support who are involved in their kids’ education. I think above all that’s what we have going for us,” said Jason Dandurand, principal at Columbia High School. Dandurand said the ACT report showed 80 percent of the takers were ready for college-level coursework in English.

“We have a dedicated faculty who are very driven to making sure these kids are ready for college and ready to compete in this global economy,” Dandurand said.

Paeltz said Governor French students were in school more hours, and the school has longer classes.

“And 25 percent of our kids come out of special education,” Paeltz said. “We’re not doing this with just the cream, we’re doing this for everybody.”

Belleville District 201 has maintained its composite score within eight-tenths of a point for five years, said Melissa Taylor, director of student services for the district. More than 1,000 students at District 201 took the test as juniors, she said.

“Because every student takes the ACT, that (score) is about what we would expect. Because there are students who have learning challenges mixed in with our honors students,” Taylor said.

She added, “We also know it’s one day of these students’ lives, and there’s no accounting for motivation.”

For those students who did not test as well as they had wanted, SIUE’s Breck has some questions to remember.

“How often do you take a timed test? It measures that. It also measures how you work alone. How often do you work alone? For every thing that it does tell you, there are things that it doesn’t tell you.”

Reporter Elizabeth Donald contributed to this report. Contact reporter Mary Cooley at mcooley@bnd.com or 618-239-2535. Follow her on Twitter: @MaryCooleyBND.

Local schools’ ACT test scores

School

English

Reading

Math

Science

Composite

Althoff

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

22.6

District 201

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

19.9

Collinsville

18.9

19.5

19.3

19.6

19.5

Columbia

22.7

22.6

22.0

22.3

22.5

East St. Louis

14.4

15.5

14.4

15.6

15.4

Edwardsville

22.5

23.2

22.5

22.8

22.9

Gibault

25.2

25.7

23.9

23.7

24.8

Governor French

24.5

24.5

26.0

25.7

25.3

Highland

20.5

21.6

21.4

21.7

21.4

Mascoutah

22.8

22.8

22.0

22.8

22.0

Mater Dei

24.1

23.9

23.5

23.4

23.9

Triad

20.8

21.5

21.5

21.5

21.5

Waterloo

21.5

22

21.8

21.3

21.8

State average

20.3

20.8

20.7

20.6

20.7

National average

20.4

21.4

20.8

20.9

21.0

Today’s results represent the latest scores achieved by all Illinois 2015 graduates in both public and private schools. District 201 was not able to provide separate figures for Belleville East and Belleville West. Cahokia, Dupo, Granite City, Lebanon and O’Fallon did not provide information as of press time. Gibault and Waterloo provided scores after the story appeared in print.

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