ACT scores up in district, state
School District 51 students who took the ACT test in April as juniors mustered an average score three-tenths of a point higher than the class ahead of them.
In spring 2012, District 51 students averaged a 19.5 out of a possible 36 points on the ACT test.
The previous class of juniors scored an average of 19.2 points on the college-entrance exam in spring 2011.
The district fell behind the state average both years — 19.9 in 2011 and 20 in 2012. District 51 Chief Academic Officer Bill Larsen said the district is gaining on the state average.
“Closing the gap on the state is a start,” he said. “A moral imperative for all of us is we want our students college-ready and postsecondary workforce-ready. We’re doing the right things and it’s not by chance.”
Those things, Larsen said, include implementing higher curriculum standards to match new state standards last year, encouraging more students to take higher-level courses and, starting last year, having more juniors take pre-ACT tests for practice.
The district set a goal for all juniors to take at least two pre-ACT tests this year.
Every District 51 high school large enough to report ACT data showed improvement in scores year-over-year except for Mesa Valley Vision Home and Community Program.
The homeschool program recorded the highest ACT test score average in the district this year, 20.9, down from 21.8 the previous year. R-5 High had the lowest ACT average in the district at 15.9, but that was a 1.4 point improvement year-over-year for the alternative high school.
Larsen said the two schools are the most prone to swings in ACT scores because of their small populations.
Seventeen Vision students took the ACT in 2012, and 64 R-5 students took the test this year.
At 20.4, Palisade High School had the highest average ACT score in 2012 among the district’s four traditional high schools. Palisade tied with Fruita Monument High for the top spot last year, with an average of 19.8.
Larsen said he expects each of the four traditional high schools to benefit this year from Colorado Legacy Schools, a program funded through the nonprofit Colorado Legacy Foundation.
The program is aimed at improving and expanding access to Advanced Placement courses at 10 Colorado high schools. Grand Junction High and Fruita Monument have participated in the program since fall 2010 and Central High will join the program this fall.
Palisade has participated in some of the program’s training this summer and will continue to glean advice from Legacy, according to Larsen.
Although the percentage of passing scores on Advanced Placement tests hasn’t kept up with the growing pace of students taking AP tests at the first two local schools to participate in the Legacy program, Fruita Monument increased the number of students in its advanced placement courses by 38 percent last school year compared to pre-Legacy 2009.
Grand Junction High more than doubled the number of students in its advanced classes in the same time period, which Larsen believes correlates with how prepared students are for the ACT test.
“As they increase rigor in their advanced coursework, ACT has followed,” he said.