Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ottawa school leader lauds district ACT scores

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 11/1/2013

Ottawa High School’s composite score on the 2013 American College Testing exam — as well as the number of students who took the test — was important to Jeanne Stroh. 

Ottawa High School’s composite score on the 2013 American College Testing exam — as well as the number of students who took the test — was important to Jeanne Stroh. 

The Ottawa superintendent found that the number of students who showed they are ready to tackle the rigors of college-level coursework was equally telling, she said.

The 2013 ACT report showed 31 percent of the 107 OHS students who took the ACT this year were proficient in all four categories of college-level coursework — college English composition, college algebra, college social science and college biology.

“I think the percent of students who are ready for college-level courses is an important number to look at,” Stroh said. “In a typical community, about 50 percent [of high school graduates] will go off to college, and less than 25 percent will graduate. Based on the [ACT] report, it’s a pretty sure bet 31 percent of the [Ottawa] kids are ready for college-level work and will graduate [from college].”

The state average for students who scored proficient in all four categories of college-level work was 30 percent.

Stroh would like to see the bar graph on the report depicting Ottawa High School’s 31 percent tally climb into the 90-percent range, she said.

Implementing Kansas College and Career Ready standards — commonly referred to as Common Core — should help the district increase the number of students who can master college-level coursework, Stroh said. College- and career-ready standards require students to not only master basic skills but show they can apply those skills, Stroh said.

Stroh was encouraged that 68 percent of students taking the ACT this year were proficient in college-level English.

“That’s an area where a lot of school districts do not do well,” she said.

The report showed 53 percent of OHS students were proficient in college-level social science, slightly above the state average of 51 percent. The school’s 42-percent mark in college biology matched the state average. Forty-three percent of OHS students were proficient in college algebra, below the state average of 51 percent.

The 2013 ACT report showed Ottawa amassed a composite score of 21.7, slightly below the state average of 21.8, but better than last year’s OHS score of 21.3. Eighty-four OHS students took the exam in 2012.

“I think the number of kids [107] who took the ACT is a really good number [compared to recent years],” Stroh said. “Our numbers went up, for the most part, and you want your composite score as close to the state average or above as you can.”

OHS students fared better in English and science than those taking the test in 2012. The 2013 report showed OHS students averaged 20.6 in English, compared to 19.9 in 2012, and 21.9 in science, up from 21.4 last year. The state averages this year for English and science were 21.2 and 21.7, respectively.

Ottawa students recorded a 22.7 score in reading, the same as last year, and 0.4 better than the state average of 22.3. The only area in which OHS students showed a decline from last year was in math. The 2013 score for math was 20.9, down from 21.1 last year, and below this year’s state average of 21.7.

But Stroh said she was encouraged by the progress OHS students demonstrated in most areas.

“There is much to celebrate,” she said.

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