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Shelby's ACT scores up but below benchmarks

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By Todd Martin

The Shelby County school district saw a considerable increase in ACT scores this year, but students continue to perform below benchmarks for college success.

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Kentucky requires every student to take the ACT in the fall of his or her junior year, and Shelby County saw an increase of .7 to a composite score of 18.7 in 2010.

Assistant Superintendent for Student Achievement Kerry Fannin said the district was impressed by the growth.

"An increase of point two to point three is considered significant growth," he said.

Shelby County did see a better increase than most of the surrounding counties, but it still trailed Oldham County (21.3), Eminence (19.2) and Franklin County (18.9) in composite scores.

And though Shelby County's growth was slightly larger, it mirrored a growth across the commonwealth, where the composite score increased from 18.2 to 18.5.

Fannin credited Shelby County's improvement to the district's emphasis on the test. Last year Shelby County offered a 4-week ACT prep course to help students get ready for the test.

Fannin also noted the school's increased level of AP classes and the number of students taking them as a bonus for the ACT.

"The rigors they face in those classes and the preparation for the end of the year tests helps prepare them," he said.

College benchmarks

But despite the increases seen by Shelby County and the state, college benchmarks still remain a goal.

Those benchmarks say that students who score at least an 18 in English, 22 in math, 21 in reading and a 24 in science are projected to have a 75 percent chance at scoring a C or higher in a college course.

Shelby County's students performed short of those, averaging 17.8 in English, 18.2 in math, 19.1 in reading and 19 in science.

Of 449 students who took the test, almost half (49.7 percent) met the English benchmark, but only 35.2 percent met the standard in reading, 20.7 in math and 15.8 in science.

Shelby County was slightly better than most state percentages – 48.8 percent in English, 35 percent in reading and 15.8 percent in science – but actually trailed in math, in which 21.6 percent of the state's students surpassed the college readiness standard.

The scores throughout the state also fall well below college entrance scores. About 75 percent of students enrolling in the universities of Kentucky and Louisville fall between composite ACT scores of 21 and 27. Western Kentucky and Murray State are between 18 and 25, and Centre and Bellarmine are between 22 and 30.

Help available for tests

Fannin was quick to remind us that these are juniors being tested, not college-ready seniors.

"Seniors are going to score higher on the test because they have another year of instruction," he said. "We're testing juniors, and we're testing them after the first semester of their junior year."

To try to continue seeing growth, Fannin said the district is adding more resources for students.

"Last year we had one course for students, and this year we're offering two courses and also an online resource through www.prepme.com," he said.

The courses will both be 4-week programs, the first starting on Saturday, Sept. 25 at Collins High School, and it will meet for the following three Saturdays. The second course will begin Nov. 6 at Shelby County High School and will meet Nov. 13, 20 and Dec. 4. The ACT will be given Dec. 11.

Students can take both classes for a total cost of $51, which covers the price of the books.

The prepme.com online tool is available at a discounted price of $90 for Shelby County students. The subscription is normally $299.

"There is a window for enrollment at the discounted price for prepme.com," Fannin said. "Students must enroll by Sept. 10 to get that price."

Fannin said he believes with these new tools, that students will continue to improve at this same rate or better.

“I’ve found that when you challenge kids and give them the resources, they will surprise you,” he said.