Trussville seeks to improve its ACT performance
By John William Gallagher
For the past few years, ACT scores at Hewitt-Trussville High School have been static. So on Monday, Oct. 22, Trussville City Schools administered a practice ACT test for its freshman, junior, and senior students. The school system is looking to make its students more prepared.
“We have been looking for ways to make our students more college and career ready,” said Trussville City Schools’ Director of Curriculum and Instruction Ammie Akin, Ed.D. “We need to make sure that Trussville students have the opportunity to compete globally. Our teachers are exceptional and so are our students.”
Sophomores did not take the test since they were taking the state required PLAN test. The PLAN test is designed as a midpoint test for the ACT. Some students were allowed to opt out of the practice test.
The ACT is a standardized test that scores and assesses a student’s college readiness, focusing on strategy and content. The test includes four sections: English, Mathematics, Reading and Science. Each section has a certain amount of questions and a time limit. There is also an optional Writing portion. Yet, many students who take the ACT test are not prepared for the strategy of the test itself.
“For our students, the first time they take the ACT should not be their first exposure,” Akin said. “They should be ready for it. We have been static for the past five years on the ACT.”
The state has instituted a plan to help combat this problem, Plan 2020. It provides end course benchmarks for every grade level, from kindergarten through senior year. The plan defines a prepared graduate as someone who possesses the skills and knowledge to succeed in college and the real world. It looks to increase the number of students who are academically ready for college and careers, and decrease the number of students who are not prepared. The local district has given each school a curriculum to align to. Currently, Plan 2020 only affects students in kindergarten through tenth grade. The current juniors and seniors are not affected. Next year, juniors will be required to take the practice test.
“We wanted to make sure our current juniors and seniors were not left out,” Akin said.
The current average score on the ACT for Trussville City Schools is below the admission standards for some public state schools or universities. The school board consulted with many teachers and schools, including Mountain Brook High School, on how to improve its performance.
The practice ACT test will provide a baseline performance for Hewitt-Trussville High School. Once test scores are returned from the district, a team will analyze the data and figure out what paths are the best for students wishing to improve their ACT scores. Akin believes the best way to improve scores is to embed content and strategy further into the curriculum. The school system has great scores in English, but some feel it is lagging behind in Mathematics. The school’s scores are above the state averages though.
Akin believes there is a correlation between Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test, ARMT, scores in Grade Level IV and above average scores on the ACT. A Level IV score means the student exceeds the average. The ARMT is given to students in the third through eighth grade to test their performance. A student’s performance is rated on four achievement levels. Many Trussville students score in Grade Level IV on the ARMT.
“Our third grade through eighth grade scores are right alongside many of the top schools,” Akin said. “So what are we missing?”
Amongst the school system, there is a great sense of urgency to improve its performance scores. Teachers at the high school are embedding content into their courses through ACT Core. The program allows teachers to better analyze a student’s performance and work with that student to increase their level of preparedness for college and a career. Paine Elementary School has already started tutoring students in math. The high school hired a new AP Calculus teacher. The teacher was formerly at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. The school system is also offering online adaptive instruction and traditional tutoring for its students.
“We have a great school system,” Akin said. “There is no reason why we cannot be the best.”