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Local students’ ACT scores improve

By Staff | Aug 19, 2010

Lee County students scored higher, on average, last year on the ACT than the prior year, despite a nearly 14 percent jump in the number of those taking the test.
Officials with the Lee County School District announced Wednesday the release of the results of the 2009-10 American College Test, or ACT. The scores increased across the board in English, math, science reasoning and reading. The composite, or average, score increased from 18.6 to 19.0.
At the same time, approximately 300 more seniors took the ACT in Lee County. Officials reported 2,706 students took the test in 2009-10 compared to 2,385 the year before, a 13.5 percent jump in participation.
Richard Itzen, director of accountability for Lee County Public Schools, explained that the ACT is generally a test taken by students who intend to attend college. In Florida, state graduation requirements allow students to use passing ACT scores to graduate in place of their failing FCAT scores.
FCAT stands for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
“We have, most likely, a lot more students taking the ACT and, particularly, students who have not been successful academically taking the FCAT,” he said.
This past year, the school district implemented a plan to register all seniors for the ACT who had not passed the FCAT. The district also covered the cost of the test for the students, Itzen said. The test costs about $30 per youth.
“This past year and the year before that, we played a more active role at the district level in encouraging students to take the ACT,” he said.
Itzen did not know Wednesday how much the district paid out in total.
The new initiative enabled approximately 275 students to take the ACT and graduate based on their passing scores when otherwise they would not have qualified, according to officials. A passing score on the ACT is 15 or higher.
“We continue to work to provide students with various educational opportunities, and I am glad to see ACT participation increasing,” Dr. James Browder, the Lee County Public Schools superintendent, wrote in a prepared statement. “We’ll continued to work hard so this trend continued over the years to come.”
Itez added that with more participation, one could assume that the scores would drop. Still, Lee County students scored higher in all areas of the ACT.
“We are pleasantly surprised we did not see a decrease in the scores,” he said.
In the past, the material on the ACT has been viewed separately from the classroom curriculum, according to Itzen. He attributed the higher scores to looking closely at the skills tested on the ACT, compared to the curriculum.
“There’s more of an effort to match up the standards,” Itzen said.
Statewide, the number of students who took the ACT increased last year. There were 113,480 youth who participated in the 2009-10 test compared to 105,297 students for the 2008-09, a 7.8 percent jump in participation.
While Lee County’s ACT scores improved, on average, the statewide scores remained unchanged from last year to the prior year. Officials reported that the composite scores for the 2009-10 and 2008-09 tests were 19.5, while the national average dipped by 1/10th of a percent.
“We noticed that Florida, in general, the scores were quite flat and even down a little bit in English and reading, so we feel that our progress is better than what has been seen statewide,” Itzen said.
The ACT is a voluntary assessment that measures student abilities in the academic areas traditionally identified with college preparatory high school programs, according to officials. ACT scores are reported on scale ranging from 1 to 36.
Students planning on attending college must take the ACT or Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT, for entrance into most institutions.