Sioux City metro schools post ACT gains

November 25, 2018
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SIOUX CITY -- Local school officials credit gains in the latest ACT exams to stepped up efforts to focus on core subjects.

“These improvements are a credit to the work done over the past year to more specifically focus on increased student success on the ACT assessment,” Sioux City School District Superintendent Paul Gausman said.

The 2018 graduating seniors in each of the district’s three high schools all posted better average composite scores than their counterparts the previous year.

Year-over-year scores also rose at four other metro schools -- Bishop Heelan, Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Dakota Valley and South Sioux City.

The American College Testing, or ACT, measures students’ proficiency in English, math, reading and science reasoning. Each section and the composite is scored from 1 to 36.

In the Midwest, the ACT is an academic benchmark commonly used for college admissions and many scholarships.

The Sioux City School District’s three high schools combined for an average composite of 20.9 in 2018. East and North each scored 21.0 while West posted a 20.6.

2017 graduating seniors at the three schools who took the test combined for an average composite of 20.2, with East at 20.7, North at 20.6 and West at 19.1.

The overall composite for the Sioux City District score was 20.7 in 2016, the last of three straight years of gains that began in 2014.

″...While the ACT is an important indicator for college readiness, it is just one of the many tools we use to assess student preparedness for the future,” Gausman said in a statement. “Today’s students need opportunities and preparation for not only post-secondary education, but also career readiness.”

Among metro schools, Heelan posted the highest 2018 composite -- 24, up from 22.8 in 2017 and 23.1 in 2016.

Heelan Director of Guidance Bob Geary noted that while the average composite in Iowa and national scores dropped slightly to 21.8 and 20.8, respectively, Heelan students showed a marked improvement in each section.

“Our student diversity is growing and we continue to maintain a very high standard with the ACT. We attribute this to our strong academic curriculum and the willingness of our students to put in the extra time preparing for ACT testing,” Geary said.

Ninety-six percent of graduating seniors took the test this year, Geary said, in line with the 90 to 95 percent of students who typically take it.

Just behind Heelan’s 2018 leading mark was Dakota Valley, which saw its average composite score increase for the fourth straight year. This year, the southeast South Dakota district posted a composite of 23.5, up from 23.0 in 2017 and 22.8 in 2016.

“We are proud that the Dakota Valley ACT results continue to annually be above the state and national averages, which certainly reflects well on the efforts of our staff and students, the scores also are just one of the data points which we use to in conjunction with other information to strive to provide the best opportunities for our students to continue their success beyond high school,” Dakota Valley Superintendent Jerry Rasmussen said.

The statewide composite in South Dakota was 21 in South Dakota, down slightly from the previous year

After two years of year-over-year losses, the Sergeant Bluff-Luton gained nearly a full point in its 2018 ACT score. Graduating students posted an average composite score of 23.4, up from 22.5 last year and 22.8 of 2016.

SB-L Superintendent Rod Earleywine said it is “the highest composite score we have had over the past five years and well above the state average of 21.8.”

South Sioux City was the only metro district to rate below the state and national average composite scores, but the district’s 2018 score of 17.6 comes with an asterisk.

Unlike Iowa and South Dakota, Nebraska is one of 20 states that administer the test to all juniors. That practice began in the 2016-17 school year.

Prior to joining an ACT pilot project where all students sat for the exam, about 40 percent of all South Sioux students took the test and the district composite score was about 20, said high school principal Ashley Odell.

“Because we test 100 percent of our junior students, we gain valuable insight into our programming and the outcomes for our students after high school. We are able to ensure that no matter the circumstance, we are opening doors for students who may not otherwise have these opportunities,” Odell said.

South Sioux City’s average composite this year was up from 16.5 in 2017 and 17.4 in 2016.

Odell said “the growth that our students have shown is a testimony to the effort they put into their coursework. It’s also a testimony to the our district’s recent curriculum endeavors.”

In Nebraska, the average composite score was 21.4 in 2018.

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