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Beloit Turner seeking a testing turnaround

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ANN MARIE AMES
September 1, 2010
— The good news is more Turner High School students are taking the ACT test than ever before.

The bad news is they are not as well prepared as district officials want them to be.


The average total ACT score for Turner seniors during the 2009-10 school year was 21. That’s below the state average of 22.1, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.


Turner students particularly did poorly in language arts and math, Administrator Dennis McCarthy said.


The district is aware of the problem and started two years ago to make changes to its math program, McCarthy said.


The first step is to increase the number of students taking high-level math classes, he said.


“If students aren’t being challenged throughout their school careers, they’re simply not going to be ready for the ACT,” McCarthy said.


Turner is making algebra available to seventh graders who are ready for it, he said. Previously, eighth grade was the soonest students could take algebra.


Last year, four seventh graders took algebra, McCarthy said. This year, 37 seventh graders will do so, he said.


The district also vows not to limit the number of students allowed to take advanced classes, McCarthy said. The district also will work with students who are not ready to take algebra in middle school so all students are ready for algebra by ninth grade, he said.


“Not every student is going to take trigonometry or calculus,” McCarthy said. “We have to get them all through algebra II.”


To improve language arts scores, the district this year will put a “heavy, heavy” focus on non-fiction writing, McCarthy said.


“We need all of our students to be able to communicate well through the end of a pen or through their fingertips,” he said.


In Walworth, Big Foot High School’s class of 2010 set the district’s highest ACT average in 11 years, finishing slightly above the state mark on what’s considered an assessment of college readiness.


The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction this week released district averages for the 47,755 high school seniors who took the ACT test last year. Big Foot jumped more than a half-point to 22.4 on a 36-point scale.


The last time Big Foot averaged greater than 22 was the graduating class of 1999.


“To be very honest, I was not surprised by the number,” Principal Mike Hinske said. “I’ve been tracking the class of 2010 for a little bit … I was pleased to see the average come up and the fact that we had roughly two-thirds of the class taking the ACT.”


About three years ago, the district implemented a three-test system at eighth, 10th and 12th grades, Hinske said. It was an effort to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses.


The new strategy allows faculty to narrowly focus its instruction to different students. Hinske said that enhanced learning in the classroom.


Big Foot’s biggest improvement was in math, where scores climbed from 21 to 22.8. The ACT tests in math, English, science and reading.


Nearly 63 percent of the school’s 140 seniors took the test—the highest figure since 2000.


The state averaged 69 percent participation and 22.1 on the exam.


ACT RESULTS

School - Students tested - Average Score


Williams Bay High School - 44 - 24.0


Big Foot High School, Walworth - 88 - 22.4


East Troy High School - 100 - 22.4


Evansville High School - 87 - 22.3


Elkhorn Area High School - 147 - 22.3


Badger High School, Lake Geneva - 179 - 22.2


Brodhead High School - 61 - 22.2


Milton High School - 167 - 22.2


Parkview High School, Orfordville - 55 - 21.9


Palmyra-Eagle High School - 57 - 21.8


Craig High School, Janesville - 296 - 21.5


Edgerton High School - 81 - 21.4


Clinton Community High School - 56 - 21.3


Whitewater High School - 104 - 21.3


Beloit Turner High School - 51 - 21.0


Juda High School - 14 - 20.9


Delavan-Darien High School - 117 - 20.8


Parker High School, Janesville - 194 - 20.7


Albany High School - 17 - 19.8


Beloit Memorial High School - 235 - 19.4


State - 47,755 - 22.1



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