ACT test scores dip for D51 students
Following five consecutive years of ACT score improvement in School District 51, the average composite ACT score in the district fell by a tenth of a point year-over-year in 2013.
All Colorado students take the ACT test in April of their junior year in high school. The average ACT composite score for the 1,461 District 51 juniors who took the test this spring was 19.4, down from 19.5 for the juniors of spring 2012, according to the Colorado Department of Education. The district improved its average score in 2013 compared to 2012 in just one ACT test section: reading.
District 51 tied with four other school districts for the 59th-highest average ACT score in 2013 out of 135 Colorado school districts, placing it in the 57th percentile. Only school districts where 16 or more students took the test reported results through the state.
The state average improved from a composite score of 20 last year to a composite score of 20.1 in 2013. State averages for ACT English, math and science tests remained stagnant year-over-year, while reading improved from 19.8 to 20.4.
The break in momentum for local ACT scores was a disappointment for District 51 Chief Academic Officer Bill Larsen.
“We were hoping to go up a tenth of a point but we went down a tenth of a point,” he said.
Larsen said local high school principals told him more students are participating in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. Those students are doing better on the test, he said principals told him, but results are mixed for others, including the 48 percent of District 51 juniors who don’t plan to attend college.
“Right now, it’s not a high-stakes test for about half of our students. That’s tough,” Larsen said.
ACT scores will hold more weight with the implementation next fall of a new state high school diploma endorsement program. The endorsement criteria, recently adopted by the Colorado State Board of Education and Colorado Commission on Higher Education, shows a student is ready for post-high school work or education through a portfolio of completed courses and minimum test scores.
State Board member Marcia Neal of Grand Junction supports the endorsed diploma, which essentially guarantees a student can enroll in the Colorado public university or college of his or her choice after high school graduation. Neal predicts the endorsement will get more students to take standardized tests and the ACT seriously.
“We need to ask more of students. We need to raise the bar and this allows them to do it,” she said.
Larsen said the district hopes to increase ACT scores by better utilizing an ACT preparation program it purchased in 2012-13. He added 35 percent of college readiness standards students are tested on with ACT are not covered by the end of 11th grade in Colorado content standards, but he didn’t see that as a reason for the district’s scores. “All kids in the state of Colorado are taking the same test we are so if they’re getting 20 or more, we wonder what’s happening,” Larsen said.
Among 135 Colorado school districts that were large enough to report ACT scores, Gilpin County Re-1 and Ridgway R-2 had the highest average composite scores in the state, at 24.6 and 24.5, respectively. Estes Park R-3 had the lowest average, 13.7.