Students at New Trier High School continue to excel on the ACT, school board members learned Monday night. Overall, the average composite score of New Trier’s class of 2011 was about 27.5.
They did so well that the top half of New Trier’s graduating class of 2011 were all in the top 6 percent nationally, according to a report prepared by Paul Sally, the New Trier Township High School District 203 assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
“Our students should be proud of what we do on these tests,” Sally said. “So should their parents, and the community, and teachers from the sender schools and our teachers.”
It makes sense to look at the ACT because it is the college entrance exam taken by all Illinois high school juniors as part of their state-mandated testing.
While students who took higher level math and english courses did better on the ACT, even students who did not take the highest level classes did quite well on the exam, Sally said.
Other points in his analysis included:
--New Trier students as a group did better on the ACT than was predicted by their scores on the PLAN test, a standardized test given early in the sophomore year.
- More students are taking the ACT more than once, but more than half did not take it until the second semester of their junior year. While students who took it twice tended to do better the second time, students who took it more often did not always do as well on their last test.
- The vast majority — more than 85 percent — of New Trier graduates met ACT’s college readiness benchmarks in english, math and reading. About 71 percent met the benchmark in science, Sally said, noting that he doesn’t necessarily agree with the science benchmark.
ACT develops the benchmarks by finding out how students, who have taken the test, do as college freshman, and correlating their success in college classes with the scores they earned on the test. While the college readiness benchmark for English is 18 on ACT’s 36-point scale, it is 24 for science.
That might be because most college freshmen who take science classes are entering science-based majors or engineering programs, Sally said, and some colleges use those classes as opportunities to “weed out” students who won’t be successful in those majors.
“I believe in the data that says if you’re going to be a science major, you’d better do really well on your science ACT,” Sally said.
Non-science majors usually take science electives later in their college careers, Sally said.
- Boys outperformed girls by a narrow – but statistically significant margin – on the composite score, and when sorted by the highest math class they had taken. This was not true when sorted by the highest level english class they had taken. Girls, on average, took the ACT more times than boys, once again by a narrow but statistically significant margin.
Board member Carol Ducommon asked if Sally had asked ACT whether there might be gender bias in its tests. Sally said the testing company did not offer an answer to that question.