Our Catholic friends at Aberdeen Roncalli appear to have swapped places with Aberdeen Central for leadership in ACT scores. While Central’s Class of 2017 chose not to make test scores their “point of emphasis”, dropping the school’s ACT average from 22.0 the year before to 21.2, their parochial counterparts raised their 2015 average of 21.2 up to 22 in 2016 and 22.1 in 2017.
Roncalli president Jeff Simmons says the Catholic school makes sure students and parents make the ACT their point of emphasis:
“I talk to my seventh-grade parents at open house about how the ACT is important and you need to start thinking about it now,” he said. “So I put the stress on the parents and explain to them what a 30 ACT will do in regard to — we’re talking big-time scholarships for big-time schools.”
…To help students prepare for the ACT and college, Roncalli has used the ACT Aspire assessment for the last two years instead of the Smarter Balanced test that’s required at public districts, Simmons said.
ACT Aspire, which starts in third grade, not only helps the district assess how students are doing, it also reveals to students how well they’d likely do on the ACT, Simmons said.
“That’s something about the ACT Aspire, it’s just what we do, it’s our assessment,” he said. “It’s what we set our standards to, it’s the classroom curriculum that’s aligned to that. It’s not teaching to the test, because it’s simply what we do” [Katherine Grandstrand, “Roncalli ACT Scores Moving up, District President Credits Academic Focus,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.09.24].
That last sentence doesn’t make sense. When a school not only adopts an auxiliary ACT product designed to help monitor and improve readiness for the test but also align the school’s standards and curriculum to that test prep, “what we do” is by simple definition “teaching to the test.”
But hey, it’s not like Roncalli is using any private-school advantage. They’re using the same public resources Central and everyone else can use:
For true ACT prep, Roncalli has had teachers instruct a class in the past. But beginning this year, it will be using the SDMyLife resources through the state Department of Education, Simmons said.
SDMyLife is an online tool to help high school students with career development. The site’s goal is to help students understand how their interest, skills and knowledge relate to academic and career opportunities [Grandstrand, 2017.09.24].
Come on, Central Class of 2018! Don’t let those Roncalli kids keep making you look lazy! Seize those same public school resources and boost those scores!
Tangentially Related: Also among the public resources on which Roncalli depends to provide a great private-school education: tennis courts! But alas, Northern State, which hasn’t fielded its own tennis team since 2013, is ripping up half of its twelve-court tennis complex on 14th Street Southeast:
Kaitlyn Randall, Roncalli girls’ tennis coach, said eliminating six courts has no benefit to Aberdeen beyond Northern.
“It’s very unfortunate that Northern has decided to do something that will only benefit its students and not benefit the community as a whole” she said.
Randall said that she and JD Carrels, Roncalli boys’ tennis coach, plan to keep talking to Northern and Roncalli officials to ensure tennis programs in Aberdeen thrive.
…Roncalli tennis teams practice at the Northern courts. Central’s teams practice at Holgate. Both teams play at Northern [Shannon Marvel, “6 Tennis Courts to Be Eliminated When Northern Improves Soccer, Football Practice Fields,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.09.22].
Hmm… does anyone have data on whether tennis players have higher ACT scores than other students? And whether you play tennis or not, over 950 U.S. colleges and universities have made the ACT and SAT optional in their admissions process, including South Dakota’s Regental schools.