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SCHS ACT scores drop

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By Robin Bass

The school year has only begun and administrators are already facing questions as to what they plan to do about falling ACT scores. Statistics released by the Kentucky Department of Education Monday revealed that Spencer County juniors not only saw their composite score drop almost a full point in 2009, but on average scored lower than each of the surrounding districts.

Eleventh graders at Spencer County High School earned a composite score of 16.6 this year, compared to 17.5 in 2008. The .9-point drop represented an overall decline in the four testing areas of English, math, reading and science.

Nearby districts also had dips in their combined ACT scores, but all remained more than a point or two higher than Spencer County. Bardstown Independent posted a relatively big loss of .6, yet their final composite was still 18.3. Other districts that suffered declines in their 2009 test scores were: Shelby County falling .4 for a composite of 18.0; Anderson County, losing .2 for a combined score of 18.3; and Jefferson County, earning a 17.8 after also dropping two-tenths of a point.

Regional districts on the rise include Nelson County, jumping .6 to 18.8; Trimble County also up .6 to 17.5; and Bullitt County nearly even with a .1 increase to 17.8.

Only Oldham County remained consistently high in the region with a composite of 21.2 out of a possible 36 points.

Of the four testing areas, Spencer County’s scores in science had the most significant decline after losing 1.5 points. English scores were lagging close behind with a 1.1 drop, followed by math (-.7) and reading (-.2).

Accompanying statistics provided by KDE also showed that less than a third of Spencer County’s 2009 juniors will be ready for English composition courses in college. Other numbers reveal that:

• 22 percent are ready for college-level social science courses,

• 11 percent are ready for college-level algebra courses, and

• 7 percent are ready for college-level biology courses.

Superintendent Chuck Adams said Monday that the ACT test results were a “disappointment”.

“Not all students may choose to go to college, but that’s an option we need to prepare them for,” said Adams.

To achieve that goal, the high school must “provide a comfortable environment,” said Adams, one in which students take pride in their school and themselves. Other important factors are developing leadership at the school, encouraging parents to be involved and teaching children how to be responsible adults.

“We are spending too much time in the product and not in the process. We’re not connecting with our kids,” said Adams.

Once students settle into their routine, Adams plans to discuss the ACT results with SCHS Principal Jocelyn Lyons and develop a strategy for improving test scores. One idea is to look at the successes of the middle school scores over the past two years and implement some of their tactics.

Lyons is a former Spencer County Middle School assistant principal. During her time there, she was in charge of administering EXPLORE – a high school-readiness assessment for eighth graders.

“She already has a huge emphasis on college-readiness,” said Adams. “She has already established the culture and expectations from the ground up.”

High school juniors are required by state law to participate in the college-readiness indicator known as ACT. A total of  43,500 juniors in Kentucky were evaluated in the areas of English, math, reading and science. The statewide composite score dropped .1 in 2009 to 18.2.