Corridor students have once again outperformed their state and national counterparts on the ACT exam.
Though this year’s statewide average composite score, 22.1, sank two-tenths of a point from last year’s 22.3, Iowa students are still the second highest-achieving group of test takers in the nation, for states where more than 50 percent of high-school graduates take the exam. In addition, Iowa students’ average performance was a full point higher than the national average composite score of 21.1, which remained flat from 2011.
An additional two percent of 2012 Iowa high-school graduates took the ACT compared with the class of 2011. Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass has said all of the state’s high school graduates should take the exam.
Newly released ACT data shows that Iowa’s 2012 graduates, 63 percent of whom took the test, tied with the 71 percent of Wisconsin high school graduates who took the test, with both groups averaging composite scores of 22.1. Only Minnesota, where 74 percent of students with diplomas took the ACT, had a higher average than Iowa for states where the majority of graduates take the test. Minnesota students’ average composite score was 22.8.
More than half of the nation’s graduates, a record 52 percent, took the exam.
That’s cause for mixed emotions, according to ACT spokesman Ed Colby, who called the two-tenths of a point drop “a significant difference.”
“We don’t think it’s right to be satisfied with that,” he said. “There’s a reason to be happy for the positive results that we’re seeing. There’s also reason to be concerned that we’re feeling like we’re leaving a substantial amount of students behind.”
Colby pointed to ACT data showing that only 25 percent of U.S. graduates met the Iowa City-based organization’s College Readiness Benchmarks in all four of the test’s subject areas; math, science, reading and English. That number jumps to 30 percent in Iowa alone.
“I think it speaks well of Iowa’s education system compared to many other states,” he said of the state’s test results overall. “That’s something to be encouraged by and proud of. At the same time, we still have a substantial proportion of students who are not ready.”
Every major public school district in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Corridor recorded an average composite score that was higher than the national average. Iowa City led the way with 25.4, followed by Linn-Mar with 24.4, Cedar Rapids at 23.8, College Community with 23.3, Clear Creek Amana with 22.9 and Marion with 22.5. Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, districts with multiple high schools, recorded 658 and 547 test takers, respectively, while their single high school counterparts such as Clear Creek Amana and Marion had pools of only 89 and 75 exam participants this year.
Students in Iowa City had an especially high showing, with West and City high schools, at 25.8 and 24.7, taking the top two spots for average composite scores in the Corridor. Those results led the district to one of its highest average ACT composite scores in 26 years. In addition, it was West High School students’ best performance ever.
“There is no magic on how this level of achievement happens; it takes talented and passionate teachers who push all students to excel, a rigorous curricular program, and establishing and maintaining a school culture that emphasizes as its core mission strong academic performance for all students,” said West High Principal Jerry Arganbright.
Further north, Cedar Rapids Community School District Superintendent Dave Benson also was positive. This year’s average composite scores rose two-tenths of a point, from 23.6 in 2011 to 23.8 now, for the district as a whole.
“It looks like our composite score is consistent with the past five years,” Benson said. “We’ve gone up and down a little bit, but five years ago it was 23.8 and this year it was 23.8, which demonstrates a consistent high quality education program across the district and particularly at our senior highs.”
Jefferson High School students’ average increased five-tenths of a point while Washington High School saw a three-tenths of a point gain over the same period. Only Kennedy Senior High School recorded a drop, coming in one-tenth of a point lower than last year’s average.
“I really don’t know that there’s a concrete single reason why that variation exists,” Benson said, mentioning a concerted push to grow Advanced Placement course options at Jefferson High School. “I think the district has an outstanding group of faculty at the high-school level, that our college preparatory curriculum is second to none. We have offered many of the Advanced Placement offerings which our bright talented kids have taken advantage of and that makes a difference.”
Want to compare ACT scores from local high schools? Scroll through and then click on any of the 10 options from the above and below lists to compare the schools’ English, Math, Reading, Science, and Overall Composite scores.