Janesville ACT scores up but remain below state average

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Nick Crow
August 20, 2014

JANESVILLE — Both Janesville high schools improved their ACT test scores from last year and exceeded the national average but still were below the state average, according to statistics released by the school district Wednesday.

"The School District of Janesville cannot settle for being average," Superintendent Karen Schulte said in a written statement. "We must do better for our children, and we will."

Craig High School improved its score from 21.9 in 2013 to 22.1 for 2014.

Parker High School improved its score from 20.9 in 2013 to 21.1 in 2014.

The district as a whole improved from 21.5 last year to 21.7 this year.

The state average is 22.2, and national average is 21.0.

The results are reflective of the 2014 graduating class, meaning the majority of students took the test in the spring of 2013.

Craig improved in all four areas--reading, math, English and science. Parker improved in reading, math and English but declined slightly in science, according to the district release.

As a district, scores increased in English, math and science and stayed the same in reading, according to the release.

District scores trail the state composite by 0.5 points. It trailed the state by 0.6 points in 2013. The state composite ACT score increased by 0.1 compared to 2013. District scores are above the national average by 0.7 points in 2014.

According to ACT statistics, 73 percent of Wisconsin high school graduates took the ACT test in 2014, a drop of 1.9 percent since 2010. The number of graduates taking the test statewide since 2010 has decreased 6.7 percent, according to the statistics.

Wisconsin outperformed the nation in English, reading, math and science, according to ACT figures.

In Janesville, the school district during the 2012-13 school year started a high school curriculum change  in response to lackluster test results on the ACT and advanced placement tests.

Known as Project Redesign, the ongoing overhaul of curriculum began in ninth grade and is rolling up through subsequent grades, according to the district.

Its ultimate goal is to align curriculum with the Common Core state standards and the ACT College and Career Readiness Standards, said Kim Ehrhardt, director of instructional services for the district.

Ehrhardt said the district has begun annually monitoring student growth with the ACT Educational Planning and Assessment System for grades 7-10. It's goal is to increase college and career readiness of students, he said.

As part of Project Redesign, all students in grade 11 participated in a practice ACT test in spring 2014, Ehrhardt said. Those results, along with annual ACT data, are being used to identify students' learning needs, he said.

The results will be used to help schools monitor student progress, college and career readiness and improved ACT scores, Ehrhardt said. Beginning in spring 2015, all Wisconsin public high school students in grade 11 will take the ACT, he said.

"An analysis of this year's ACT data indicates work still needs to continue with enhancing student achievement in our high schools, especially with ensuring students are ready for college-level coursework in algebra," Ehrhardt said. "The ACT data reveals that our high schools are 10 percent behind the state benchmark for college algebra.”

Ehrhardt said that beginning this school year, all eighth-grade students will take algebra. ACT trend data shows the average math score on the ACT increase by two points when students take algebra in eighth grade, Ehrhardt said.

Janesville middle schools have been planning for the change for the past three years, Ehrhardt said.

A series of secondary math boot camps over the summer helped math teachers with the professional development needed to improve student performance in high school math, he said.

"Challenges continue," Ehrhardt said. "However, the goals of Project Redesign--to create student learning experiences that are more rigorous, relevant and engaging--is starting to pay dividends.

"Central to that success story is the diligent efforts of the staff at both Parker and Craig high school to refine curriculum, focus instruction and motivate positive student performance on the various data markers that measure results."

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