LINCOLN — Nebraska students continued their academic achievement this year, scoring an average 22.1 on the ACT college entrance exam, according to the ACT national score report.
That’s a percentage point higher than the national average, though it is the same average score for Nebraskans as last year.
However, since 2004, Nebraska students have raised their ACT scores by 0.4 points.
The effect of the addition of college-preparatory courses to the curriculum was a major reason given for an improvement in the average scores of graduating seniors of area schools this year, according to school superintendents.
“We’re pleased to see that growth and increase in average scores for almost all groups of students,” said Betty Van Deventer, spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Education.
Over 70 percent of our high school graduates took the ACT exam, said Scott Swisher, superintendent at Hartington Public Schools. “Their average score is 20.8,” Swisher said. “We prepare our students with a strong curriculum and provide manuals on test-taking with practice tests,” said Swisher.
Swisher said the help is available to any students that want it.
“How much a student prepares, is up to the student. The help is there. Some take prep courses and some take the exam several times and some don’t,” Swisher said.
Rob Bengston, counselor at Cedar Catholic High School, said the ACT average of the graduates of last year’s class was 22.5.
“The ACT average of our graduating seniors have gotten progressively better over the past few years,” Bengston said.
The four schools in the Laurel-Concord inter-local agreement also did well.
“We generally did well, but in my smaller schools with one or two taking the exam, the scores reflect that,” said Dan Hoesing, superintendent at Coleridge, Laurel, Newcastle and Wynot Public Schools.
Hoesing described assistance given to the students:
“We have adjusted our curriculum to prepare the students for college by offering college-prep Calculus, Trigonometry and Composition, he said.
“We don’t teach directly to the ACT test, but try to get the students ready in college subjects and there is some overlap by the ACT,” said Hoesing. “And an ACT-prep course was offered.”
“The teachers have done a great job in preparing the kids,” Hoesing said.
Like Hoesing, Steve Rinehart, superintendent at Osmond and Randolph Public Schools, credits good teaching and a curriculum designed to prepare students for college for students who scored well on the ACT.
“We have teachers that teach well and we offer college-preparatory Calculus, English, Anatomy, Physiology, and Advanced Placement (AP) Math, a couple by distance learning at the schools.”
“The average ACT score graduating seniors this year at Wausa Public Schools was 22.7, an increase over last year’s average and more than this year’s state average,” said Bob Marks, superintendent at Wausa and Bloomfield Public Schools.
College-preparation courses are offered in Wausa in Physiology, pre-Calculus, Accounting, Anatomy, Biology, and Advanced History by distance learning, Marks said.
We did not offer a separate ACT course, but they can be purchased at nearby colleges and ACT practice exams are available online, said Marks.
The average ACT score of the 15 graduating seniors at Bloomfield High School who took the exam this year is 21.5, said Kimberly Lingenfelter, K-12 principal at Bloomfield Public School.
“Because students from a different class get tested each year,” Rinehart said, “you’re likely to see a learning curve.”
“In both Randolph and Osmond, we saw mixed results from the students tested this year: they scored good in math and not as good in reading. The averages were high – just one-tenth below the state average,” Rinehart said.
Seventy-two percent of Nebraska high school graduates took the test this year, compared with 77 percent last year.
This year, 22,929 students graduated from Nebraska high schools.
The state’s 22.1 average score ranks first among states in which 70 percent or more of their high school graduates take the ACT, the Education officials attributed the high ranking in ACT scores to a number of factors. The maximum score is 36.
Average scores for most minority students, including Hispanic, Asian and Pacific, except for blacks also saw progress, the report said.
John Moon, assessment coordinator for the Education Department, said the state’s assessment program had helped teachers better understand assessment standards.
Teachers, in turn, have helped their students score better on tests, such as the ACT.
“Students are learning specific skills that the exam seeks to assess,” Moon said.
Van Deventer said other results in the ACT national score report showed Nebraska students simply were better prepared for college than other students:
• 77 percent of Nebraska graduates tested ready for college-level English courses, compared with 68 percent nationally.
• 49 percent of state graduates tested ready for college-level algebra, compared with 43 percent. 60 percent of Nebraska graduates tested college-ready for social science courses, compared with 53 percent nationally.
Moon said he expected scores to continue to improve after the state adds science to the subjects that are made part of the statewide assessment.
Nebraska currently tests students in reading and math.
Strong ACT scores are important in helping students win lucrative scholarships and gain entrance to prestigious colleges.