Fort Scott ACT scores above state average

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fort Scott High School has set or matched five-year highs on the ACT exam.

Principal Bob Beckham said his school has a history of falling just below or just above the state average in each of the four areas tested -- English, mathematics, reading and science. But this year, all four scores came in above average for the first time in recent history.

"Given different years, we might be just below or just above in a couple of those categories," Beckham said. "This was the first year of recent history where (in) all four, we were above the state average."

According to the Five Year Trends data of the ACT, Fort Scott High School set new average high scores in English, mathematics and science while matching the previous high in reading set in 2010.

Beckham said with so much emphasis being put on state assessments, teachers have to keep in mind that the state assessments are not the only objective.

"We put so much emphasis toward preparing for the state assessments, we have to constantly be on guard to not allow ourselves to sacrifice other areas," Beckham said.

Currently, Fort Scott High School's curriculum has state assessment test preparation built into it, however, there is nothing in it to accommodate ACT test preparation. According to Beckham, while it is a challenge to get students ready for state assessments, it is not necessarily the most important thing.

"The bigger challenge is to get them ready for whatever is next in their lives," he said. "We can't lose sight of getting them prepared for their futures."

"It was refreshing to me that even in spite of the fact that we've given so much emphasis for that KCA state testing process, it didn't hurt the ACT. As a matter of fact, it enhanced it."

Not only did the high school earn high marks across the board, it nearly achieved higher than state average marks for college readiness in all four categories. ACT has established benchmarks to determine a student's readiness to take college-level courses. To be ready for English composition, a student must score above 18 on the English test; for algebra, a student must score above 22 on the mathematics test; for social science, a student must score above 21 on the reading test; and for biology, the student must score above 24 on the science test.

The only one of the four in which Fort Scott High School did not surpass the state average was biology. Beckham said there might be a correlation between the scores and a chance to take advanced placement (AP) courses. The high school currently offers AP courses in English, algebra and social science.

"I don't know if there's a correlation, but I think there could be," he said.

While not all of the 77 FSHS students who took the ACT in 2011 were in AP classes, Beckham said he would bet most of them were. He said that English composition was the highest in college readiness at 78 percent, which reflects the fact that AP English literature composition is the most popular AP class offered.

"It makes me wonder in the back of my mind, even though we require three science courses for our kids, they don't have that high rigor in that AP science class to polish off their senior year with," Beckham said.

Beckham said he will get the chance to find out if there is a correlation in the near future as the school hopes to offer an AP biology course starting in the 2012-2013 school year.

He said the success in the ACT scores and state assessments is a credit to hard work by teachers and students.

"The good ACT scores and the good state assessment scores are a direct reflection of two things, excellent teaching and hard work by the students ... It doesn't just happen," Beckham said.

Five Year Trends - Average Scores

Total TestedEnglishMathematicsReadingScienceComposite
YearDist. StateDist. StateDist. StateDist. StateDist. StateDist. State
20077223,19621.021.421.4 21.621.9 22.4 21.5 21.721.5 21.9
20088123,68720.721.521.2 21.823.0 22.621.5 21.821.8 22.0
20097723,14720.921.421.7 21.722.6 22.421.8 21.821.9 21.9
20107423,34221.321.422.0 21.721.7 22.321.4 21.921.7 22.0
20117723,62822.521.422.3 21.823.0 22.322.2 21.922.6 22.0

Percent of ACT-Tested Students ready for college-level coursework

English Comp AlgebraSocial Science Biology All Four Areas
78 %73%61%51%64%60%32%34%30%28%