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Number of Lee students taking ACT test up

By Staff | Aug 20, 2009

Results on the American College Test were released Wednesday showing the Lee County School District had more students than ever taking the exam, but overall achievement decreased.
The ACT, a curriculum based exam that tests information students learn in high school, is universally accepted by colleges worldwide. It is a voluntary assessment that tests students in English, mathematics, reading and science, and is often taken along with the SAT for college admissions.
The exam is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, and the national average in 2009 is 21.
Overall, 427 more students in the Lee County School District took the exam. The percent of seniors taking the test increased from 34.5 percent in 2007 to 39.4 percent in 2009.
While more students are taking the college level test, the average score in Lee County dropped to 18.6 this year, while the state average is 19.5.
District officials were pleased that more students registered for the ACT, but pointed out that the extra students were the cause of lower scores.
“We are all about giving our students every opportunity to succeed, and if that means our overall scores don’t look good to some, that’s fine — the benefit to our youngsters is worth it,” said Superintendent James Browder.
The Collier County School District had 1,616 students take the ACT this year compared to Lee County’s 2,385. Collier’s average composite score is 19.4.
Some students have trouble passing the FCAT and use the ACT as an alternative to satisfy state requirements for graduation.
After a correlation study, the Florida Department of Education stated in the 2003-04 school year that students could take the ACT to graduate high school in lieu of not passing the FCAT.
“Our students and guidance counselors have discovered for one reason or another that we do have quite a few students who are successful on ACT and who aren’t on FCAT,” said Dr. Richard Itzen, director of Accountability for the Lee County School District.
Any student who scores over a 15 on an ACT subject test can still get a diploma, although the option can only be evoked after a student fails the FCAT three times, said Itzen.
Last year, the district instituted a policy for students to be automatically registered for the ACT if they did not pass the FCAT.
“This past year, as a district, we took care of the process of registering those seniors for the ACT,” said Itzen.
The district recently had 5,483 tenth-graders take the FCAT Reading exam and only 36 percent passed. A remaining 3,509 students now have to retake the FCAT or take the ACT to graduate.
On Wednesday, the district reported that 280 students graduated this year by taking the ACT.
“Yes, we know that having more students take the ACT will bring scores lower than they were, but the benefit to those 280 students is immeasurable,” said Browder.
Scores on the SAT test are expected to be released sometime next week, said Itzen.