‘Comparing apples to oranges’

  • Friday, August 29, 2014

Dorchester District Two’s ACT scores are somewhat lower this year than last, but the district is not seeing it as a “decline” or a “dip” because officials were expecting a low composite score.

The State Department of Education released the 2014 ACT scores Aug. 20. DD2’s mean composite score was 19.0. Last year’s composite score was 21.2.

The mean composite score for the state was 20.4 and 21.0 for the nation.

These are the first scores to reflect the district initiative to administer the college admission test to all 11th-graders. That test is administered at no cost to the students.

In the 2012-2013 school year, the district administered the test to all 1,415 high school juniors, and these scores were reported this year as 2014 graduating seniors.

Debi Gilliam, director of assessment and accountability for the district, said the report, called the “graduating seniors” report, reflects the last scores of seniors who took the test during their high school career. The “graduating seniors” report looks at each student’s latest score, whether from the junior-year testing or from re-taking the test later. Those last scores are what have been averaged and released to the public.

Gilliam added the change in the district composite score was anticipated as the test was given to all juniors – nearly three times the number of students who usually self-select to take the test. In addition, the students were a year younger than most students who take the ACT, Gilliam said.

Gilliam said that over time the number of self-selecting students taking the ACT has slightly increased. In 2013-2014, however, test-taking increased by 157 percent, going from 549 students taking the test to 1,415.

“We certainly are comparing apples to oranges when we talk about these scores,” she said.

Students can still self-select to take the ACT on their own accord, but the big change is that all seniors in the report took the test as juniors.

“Basically, when these kids were in their junior year, we tested everybody,” Gilliam said. “When they became seniors in 2013-2014, that is when they go on this report.

“Historically, when you test a whole lot more students than you ever tested before your scores are going to change – they’re going to do a drop,” Gilliam added. “When we tested these kids we knew that we couldn’t compare it to the previous year because we weren’t testing the same group of students.”

The scores will be broken down for the high schools. The test is divided into English, math, reading and science. A student can score up to 36 points in each section.

A press release from the district states DD2 is the first school district in the state to require all high school juniors to take the ACT as part of a comprehensive district program to ensure college and career readiness for every student.

‘We believe strongly that our kids should leave us with an entrance exam score so they have the opportunity to go to college that they may have never chosen,” Gilliam said. “Since we ask them to take that test their 11th-grade year, they have that score.”

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