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D300 ACT scores dip even as other indicators rise

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Updated: October 3, 2013 6:08AM

ALGONQUIN — Community Unit School District 300’s ACT scores dipped below the state average last spring.

That brings it in line with the national average of 20.9 out of a possible 36 points on the college entrance exam, according to a recent presentation to the District 300 Board by Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Teaching & Learning Ben Churchill.

The state average is 21.1, a 0.2 percent increase over the year before, Churchill said.

Those scores all have been adjusted to exclude students who took the test with special accommodations for a better comparison, he said. That’s because ACT included all results in those averages for the first time this year.

Without adjustment, the state average was 20.6, giving Illinois the second highest score among the nine states in the country that test all graduates, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. District 300 did not comment on its scores before that adjustment.

“When we come back a year from now to show you the current senior class information, we’ll continue to show progress,” Churchill told the school board.

Scores at Jacobs High School in Algonquin jumped 1.6 points over the past six years to 22.6, and Hampshire High School, 1 point to 21.8, according to the presentation. And the assistant superintendent pointed out what he calls “the elephant in the room”: scores at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville have dropped 0.1 percent; more steeply, since it hit a high three years ago — from 19.6 in 2011 to 19.1 in 2013.

That comes as the number of students considered low-income at Dundee-Crown has increased 14 percent (10 percent in District 300), and, he said, “The impact of poverty on our students cannot be overstated.”

“That said, we’ve generally shown an upward trend over time, despite the fact the number of families living in poverty has steadily increased.”

Other data points

Still, Churchill said, “One data point won’t do it.”

District 300 also looks at students’ growth, from their Explore test scores when they enter high school to their ACT scores when they graduate, he said. And it looks at the impact of the courses those students take.

For instance, students who report they take the bare minimum of math — algebra 1 and 2 and geometry — score an average 16.3 on the math section of the ACT, according to the presentation. Meantime, students who also take trigonometry and calculus score an average 23.3 (other combinations of four or more years of math, up to a 24.7), it said.

That’s why, Churchill said, the district is “encouraging more students to engage in a rigorous course of study.” And more students than ever before are taking AP (Advanced Placement) courses, taking AP exams and scoring a passing score of three or higher, he said.

The Carpentersville-area district also is looking beyond graduation at indicators of students’ success in college, he said. Its graduates are receiving more scholarship money than in past years, up to $15.2 million from $12.9 last year, according to the presentation.

Also, 73 percent of graduates go on to college within two years of high school, it said. That’s higher than state and national averages, though just behind the regional average (75 percent) for students in District 300, Elgin School District U46, Burlington Central Community Unit School District 301 and St. Charles Community Unit School District 303. The number of its students who remain in college after that first year is higher than regional, state and national averages, however, at 90 percent.

Other districts

Students who graduated from District 303 in 2013 earned an average ACT score of 23.7, the district announced last week.

That’s the highest-ever ACT composite score for St. Charles students, it said. The Class of 2013 also posted the District 303’s highest scores in the English (23.4), reading, (23.5) and science (23.3) sections of the exam, it said.

Those scores all also have been adjusted to show only students who took the test without special accommodations.

“While we applaud ACT’s decision to include students with accommodations in the Senior Report, the 2013 ACT Senior Report published scores are not directly comparable to ACT Senior Report scores from previous years. The 2013 results start a new baseline, similar to what happened beginning in 2002 when Illinois began requiring all juniors in the state to take the ACT,” District 303 Superintendent Donald Schlomann said in a written statement.

“Our students continue to demonstrate significant growth on the ACT and in the classroom as we prepare them for success beyond high school.”

U46 did not comment on the 2013 ACT Senior Report.

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