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Tougher courses add up to better ACT scores

September 7, 2012
By Kremena Spengler - Staff Writer , The Journal

NEW ULM - The rigor of the coursework, rather than simply the number of core courses, has the greatest impact on ACT performance and college readiness, shows the latest District 88 ACT report shared by Superintendent Harold Remme.

This conclusion is backed by private school data provided upon request.

District 88 students from the class of 2012 who took algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus achieved higher mathematics scores (averaging 28.8) than students who took less than three years of mathematics (averaging 15).

The state trend was the same (with the respective scores being 25.4 and 18.1).

Students who took biology and chemistry in combination with physics achieved higher ACT scores than students taking less than three years of science courses. The former group averaged a score of 24.3 compared to 21.2 for the latter group. The state averages were consistent with the trend, respectively 23.6 and 20.

ACT scores are a measure of college readiness accepted in most colleges in the Midwest. The maximum ACT score is 36.

Through collaborative research with post-secondary institutions nationwide, ACT has established the following as college readiness benchmark scores for designated college courses: 18 in English, 22 in mathematics, 21 in reading and 24 in science.

About 37 percent of District 88 test-takers met all four college-readiness benchmarks, although larger percentages met each specific benchmark.

Average ACT scores in general were closely aligned with state scores. District 88 students averaged 21.6 in English (22.1 statewide); 23.3 in mathematics (23 statewide); 22.6 in reading (22.9 statewide); and 22.9 in science (22.7 statewide).

New Ulm area private schools evidenced the same trend: students who took harder courses outperformed students who took a lighter course load.

The ACT is a common measure of college readiness here. Sixty-plus percent of District 88 students and 80-plus percent of private school students from the class of 2012 took the ACT. Less than 5 percent of all students at public and private schools (primarily students seeking to attend elite schools outside the Midwest) took the SAT, the other college readiness test. The percentages of test-takers occasionally dip or rise but remain fairly consistent over time, said officials from all schools.



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