Aberdeen Central’s 2017 graduates knocked down our local ACT average. Aberdeen’s composite ACT score dropped from a 22.0 average in 2016 to 21.2 in 2017. The Class of 2017 scored 1.2 points lower on English, 0.6 lower on math, 1.0 lower on reading, and 0.5 lower on science. Only 26% met ACT’s requirements for being ready for college in all four areas, compared to 34% in 2016 and in the 30s all three years before that.
Fortunately, principal Jason Uttermark doesn’t blame my substitute teaching (shameless plug: I suggest that Aberdeen could boost those scores by calling me more often when they need a sub!). He blames the kids:
The class of 2017 did not score better than the past five classes in any subject, according to data from Central.
“Performing well on standardized tests was not their point of emphasis,” Uttermark said. “That cohort struggled with us on their Smarter Balanced scores. … We expected the ACT scores to be down a little bit with this group” [Katherine Grandstrand, “Aberdeen School Board: ACT Scores Decrease at Central,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.09.12].
Not their point of emphasis… oh, beautiful ed-admin euphemism!
But the euphemism is accurate. I don’t know these graduates as a group, but every teacher can tell you that each year’s cohort has a different overall personality and set of interests. Every now and then, a graduating class consists of a larger number of students who just don’t dig school, and while teachers will work hard to understand and overcome those kids’ different learning styles and needs, sometimes all the carrots and sticks in the educator’s tool bag won’t erase the gaps in performance between a given class and their predecessors.
These low ACT scores prove an exception to the usually supposed rule that more kids taking a standardized test means a lower average score. Dr. Uttermark told the school board last night that only 66% of Central’s 2017 grads took the ACT, the lowest participation rate in five years, and that fewer 2017 grads took the test over to try for a better score. Sometimes lower participation doesn’t signal that only the smartest kids are taking the test; in Aberdeen’s 2017 case, it appears that fewer kids taking the test meant fewer kids overall with the desire and skills to go to college.
School board vice-president Brad Olson asked at last night’s meeting if Central offers an ACT prep course. Actually, Aberdeen offers several ACT prep courses: they are known as the core high school curriculum. Pay attention in class, kids, and you should be able to smoke the ACT without having to shell out your money, your parents’ money, or the taxpayers’ money on a specialized test prep class.