ACT scores demonstrate value of rigorous courses

NEW ULM – Thirty-nine percent of New Ulm’s public school’s 2013 senior class tested ready for college-level coursework by reaching all four college-readiness benchmarks, according to the latest ACT report released last month. This percentage was the same as the statewide average.

The benchmarks the students met are: English composition, defined as achieving a score of 18 or higher on the English ACT test; algebra, as measured by scoring 22 or higher on the ACT mathematics test; social science (22 or higher on the ACT reading test); and biology (23 or higher on the ACT science test).

A benchmark score is the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher, or about 75 chance of obtaining a C or higher, in the corresponding credit-bearing college courses.

New Ulm Public High School students exceeded state averages in reading (84 percent tested ready for college, compared to 78 percent statewide) and social science (63 percent tested ready locally, compared 57 percent statewide). The local percentages were slightly lower than the state averages in college algebra (61 percent were ready locally, compared to 62 percent statewide) and biology (49 percent were deemed ready locally, versus 52 percent statewide).

Ninety-seven seniors from New Ulm Public High School, or about 65 percent, took the ACT tests. The test is generally administered during students’ junior year.

Local students who took advanced mathematics courses (algebra 1 and 2, geometry, trigonometry and calculus) outperformed the peer group statewide, by scoring an average 31 (out of a possible score of 36) on the math test, compared to 25.2 statewide. Local students who took algebra 1 and 2, geometry, trigonometry and a mathematics course other than calculus also outperformed their respective peer group statewide (scoring 23.6 compared to 22.9 statewide). Students who took only algebra 1 and 2 and geometry scored an average 18.8, compared to 18.7 for that same group statewide.

Scores demonstrate that the rigor of the coursework, rather than simply the number of core courses, has had the greatest impact on ACT performance and college readiness, according to the report. Students who took more advanced mathematics and science courses substantially increased their ACT scores.

School officials across schools cautioned that, with smaller classes, a small variation in the number of high or low-performing students can substantially skew scores year to year. Also, scores are impacted by the proportion of students in a class who take the test, which likewise varies from one year to the next.

About 85 percent of Cathedral High students, and about 87 percent of Minnesota Valley Lutheran students, took the test.

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