Let’s make this change to AQuESTT

By John Baylor, On To College

Gabe Patton, a Lincoln Southwest junior, took his mandated ACT last April and scored a 24.  He then took our OnToCollege ACT Prep course prior to the June ACT and scored a 31.  He plans on getting at least a 32 this October or December.  The new state accountability system, AQuESTT, considers only one of these scores when assessing Lincoln Southwest.  Guess which one?  His 24.  Does this make sense?

Colleges would say no.  Most colleges consider only a student's highest composite ACT score.  The rest consider only a student's super score, the average of his highest sub-section scores—English, Math, Reading, and Science-- even if they occurred on different tests.  My daughter is a senior at Lincoln High, and her April score is already one below her highest composite to date and two points below her super score.  Considering only the April junior year test seems like we're using half-time scores to determine team records.

Ideally our system would strongly encourage each junior to take two or three more ACT tests, leading to improved results, thanks to the additional excellent Nebraska public school education they receive.

So why not still use the mandated April score as an interim place-holder for a junior class—one that helps schools address shortcomings and adjust curriculum?  However, for AQuESTT purposes, that score would be replaced a year later by the high school's average ACT score that uses only the highest composite—or super score—for each student.

Brandon Mowinkel, President of the Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals, told me that changing the mandated ACT test from April junior year to the fall senior year is a possibility, but it's unlikely that legislators would approve new AQuESTT policy that would make that day’s score temporary, replaced later by the average score of each student's highest ACT score.

Such a change to state statute, though, would encourage educators to urge students to take at least two more ACT tests after the mandated April test.  Schools and students would no longer view this earlier mandated test as the final gauge, but part of a journey that ends with the December ACT for seniors.  The students' scores and scholarships would increase.  The public would see only each school's ultimate, highest score average.

And, oh yes, this change would take pressure off of juniors, their teachers, and their administrators.  There are still plenty of chances to increase that score!

Gabe Patton didn't prepare and got a 24.  His family knew the importance of increasing that score, but not all families do.  That's why too many Nebraska high school students take the ACT only once or twice—even though the ACT gives each free-and-reduced-lunch student two free tests.  Many community college bound students don't even realize they can use the ACT to score out of remedial classes and win scholarships.

Changing AQuESTT so that it considers each student's highest score makes it more likely that all schools and families ensure that each student takes this critical test through December senior year so as to maximize scores and scholarships.  Lincoln Southwest's AQuESTT result should have an asterisk—Gabe Patton's score is already seven points higher.

 
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