RCS touts improved ACT average
According to the District ACT College Readiness Report released recently, Russellville City Schools has improved its average composite ACT score from 2015 to 2016.
The report showed RCS graduates had an average composite score of 18.4 in 2016, up from 17.9 in 2015. RCS Superintendent Heath Grimes said he is pleased with the growth their district had between 2015 and 2016 and is confident that growth will continue.
“If you are growing by two-tenths or three-tenths each year, you are making good progress,” Grimes said. “We had a five-tenths growth for our district’s average composite score from 2015 to 2016 and showed a three-tenths growth or better in all test areas, so that is definitely encouraging.”
While the RCS average composite score of 18.4 is lower than the 2016 state average composite score of 19.1, Grimes said RCS is more concerned with focusing on the individual growth of the students in the district and not comparing themselves to other districts using a number or score.
“Everyone has heard the saying that the only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday,” Grimes said. “That is a good way to describe the approach we are taking. We don’t want to focus on how we can make our numbers or scores better than other surrounding districts because this isn’t a contest we are trying to win.
“We have our own unique set of circumstances, hurdles and challenges that we face in our district just like other districts do, so it isn’t fair to compare our students and their scores to surrounding schools that might not have those same challenges to overcome.
“What we want to do is measure our own growth. We want to constantly ask ourselves, ‘Are our students growing academically from where they were last week, last month or last year? Are they making progress?’ If the answer is ‘yes’ then we are doing our job. If the answer is ‘no’ then we know we have work to do to get those students to where they need to be.”
The report also shows that percentage-wise, there were fewer RCS graduates that showed to be ready for college-level coursework than the state average based on the ACT-established college readiness benchmarks. However, RHS Principal Jason Goodwin said Russellville students showed growth from where they were the previous year, which is what they are looking for.
“The percentage of students meeting college readiness benchmarks increased in three of the four areas tested, allowing our student body to move much closer to the state average in these areas while the state average remained unchanged,” Goodwin said. “Reading had the highest increase in college readiness with a nine percent increase, which translates into approximately 20 more students on track for reading at the college level. These improvements are compliments to both our students and teachers for their hard work.”
Grimes also pointed out the scores and percentages are not always indicative of how students will perform outside of high school, especially since changes were made to the testing requirements two years ago.
“The state started requiring all 11th grade students to take the ACT, regardless of their future plans beyond high school,” Grimes said. “This means there are students taking this test who wouldn’t have been required to take it because they might be planning to attend a career technical school or they may be planning to begin their careers immediately after graduation.
“These students might not place a high priority on this test because their focus is elsewhere. Because of that, our average scores and the scores of students across the state were lower in 2015 and 2016 than they were from 2012-2014.”
Moving forward, Grimes said the system will continue to focus on the individual growth of each student as well as cultivate success based on each student and their own future plans.
“Russellville is known for its high expectations in all areas of academics and school life and that will always be the case here,” Grimes said. “While we will continue to value the importance of our test scores and of tools like the District ACT College Readiness Report that show us where we stand, we will be placing the most importance on our students and their own growth and what we can do as educators to help them meet their goals.”
Grimes said these decisions were based on the recent stakeholder survey taken by students, parents and community members, which showed this cross-section of interested parties wants to see well-rounded students who not only succeed at standardized testing but also show growth in the areas of character, leadership, responsibility and common sense.
“These college readiness benchmarks are good indicators for our college-bound students on where they need to be after high school, but we also have to realize that we have many talented and bright students who have other aspirations,” he said. “Some will be attending art programs or career technical schools, and some will have enough experience, thanks to dual enrollment classes and career technical classes they took in high school, to begin their careers immediately. We are proud of these students and the goals they have set for themselves and we want to create an environment here at Russellville that fosters success for all of our students – not just the ones planning to attend a college or university.”
Thanks to the school system’s new strategic plan and new advanced placement courses already being implemented, Grimes said they are in a great position to see even more growth from their students in the years to come.
“We have a collaborative partnership with our nearby colleges and universities and we plan to expand this to make sure our students are learning what they need to know in order to be successful at the collegiate level, especially those starting out as freshmen,” he said.
Goodwin said they would also be making a more concerted effort to measure student growth through several new tools and resources.
“Beginning this school year, an ACT prep course through Mastery Prep is being implemented for any student who desires to raise their ACT score,” Goodwin said. “Those students not enrolled in an AP course will be required to take this prep course since we believe our AP courses are providing the needed preparation and rigorous coursework to adequately prepare for the ACT.
“Additionally, all juniors and every student enrolled in the Mastery Prep courses completed a mock ACT this week and the results of this test will be distributed to these students’ teachers to guide instruction until the end of the semester when students will take an additional mock exam. The second mock exam will be used to display growth throughout the year as well as additional areas where students need support prior to the state-mandated ACT test.
“We have also placed a data coach, Gabe Willis, at the high school to assist teachers in drilling down into every individual student’s data to grow each one at a time. Mr. Willis will assist teachers as they have limited time by preparing and delivering student data reports and working with them by teaching ACT skills during their classroom instructional time.”
Grimes said he is confident these changes and new tools and resources will have students on the right path for success, which is the ultimate end goal.
“No matter what, student success is what we are striving for – success both inside the classroom and outside the classroom – because we believe in setting our students up for the bright futures we know they are all capable of,” he said.