East Aurora sees gains in ACT scores
By Jenette Sturges firstname.lastname@example.org @jenettesturges August 23, 2013 3:12PM
Illinois cut funding for testing, so high school juniors will no longer be required to take a writing test. While schools say it doesn't affect their curriculum, it will annoy juniors and their parents, because the kids will now have to take the test a se
District Class of 2012 Class of 2013 Change
Sandwich 19.9 20.7 UP .8
Geneva 23.9 24.6 UP .7
East Aurora 16.6 17.1 UP .5
Plano 18.4 18.8 UP .4
West Aurora 19.0 19.3 UP .3
Kaneland 21.0 21.1 UP .1
Oswego East 20.8 20.7 DOWN .1
Indian Prairie 24.2 24.1 DOWN .1
Batavia 23.6 23.3 DOWN .3
Somonauk 20.7 20.4 DOWN .3
Naperville 25.3 24.8 DOWN .5
Yorkville 21.1 20.5 DOWN .6
Hinckley-Big Rock 22.0 21.3 DOWN .7
Oswego 21.7 20.8 DOWN .9
Newark 21.9 20.2 DOWN 1.7
Updated: September 26, 2013 6:27AM
This year’s scores on the ACT, perhaps the one and only test most students care about as much as their teachers because of its weight in college admissions, are in, and officials at East Aurora School District couldn’t be happier.
East Aurora, which historically has posted the lowest test scores in the Fox Valley, saw significant gains. Though students earned an average 17.1, again the area’s lowest, scores in all four ACT subject areas increased, and the school’s composite was up .5 points over last year.
Students at East, the poorest and most Spanish-speaking district in the area, struggle in testing in part because of language barriers, according to East Aurora’s spokesman Matt Hanley, but the district has taken several steps toward improving its programs for English Language Learners, including more individualized attention in small groups.
Over the past five years, East Aurora has also focused on using data to more effectively assess which concepts each student has mastered, and which still need more attention. Also, two years ago, students started taking practice ACT exams to get more comfortable with the test’s format.
Going forward, Hanley said that the high school’s shorter study halls and more time spent in core classes were also meant to improve student achievement.
“Everybody was happy to see scores were at five-year highs,” Hanley said. “But we want even more growth and everything seems to be heading that direction.”
Around the Fox Valley, about half of all schools posted gains for the class of 2013, who sat for the exam as juniors in spring 2012. The other half saw their averages slip. The average ACT score across the state of Illinois dropped, too, from 20.9 to 20.6.
Contributing to the chaotic scores is a change in which tests get counted. This year, a school’s average scores included all students who sat for the exam, both students taking the conventional timed test, and students taking the test untimed or with extended time, an option for many students with disbilities. Previously, only regularly-timed tests were counted in averaging a school’s scores.
At Indian Prairie, for instance, the official average ACT score this year was 24.1, a negligble decrease from last years’ 24.2. But ignore the scores from untimed tests, and Indian Prairie’s average score leaps to 24.6.
But, admitted most administrators, including the extended-time tests probably gives a more accurate picture of the whole student body’s academic readiness for college.
“We’re much happier with a view or a snapshot that reports everybody, we’re about all kids,” Indian Prairie’s Director of Assessments Patrick Nolten said. “Adding 201 more kids with a variety of special needs, about 9 percent of students, didn’t substantially move our average down, and it shows that we’re meeting the needs of all our kids.”
Among Fox Valley schools, Sandwich High School posted the best gains, with a .8-point increase over last years’ score, edging the school just over the Illinois state average of 20.6. Geneva High School, consistently one of the highest-scoring schools in the Fox Valley, also posted large gains, taking the top spot in the Fox Valley.
Nationally, the average ACT score was 20.9, including both states like Illinois, in which all students must take the test, and other states where only college-bound students take it.
The ACT is graded on a scale of 1 to 36 points, and is widely used for admission to colleges around the country. The average ACT score for students starting at Northern Illinois University is 22. Most students entering the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this year scored between 27 and 32 on their ACT.