Class of 2016 sets new ACT record

The American College Testing (ACT) tests the college readiness of a student in reading, mathematics, english and science, and scores are reviewed by most college admissions. The class of 2016 has set a new new record with an average ACT score of 26.9, surpassing the previous record of 26.5 set by the 2013 graduating class.

Statewide, the average ACT score for the class of 2015 was 20.8, and the Illinois State Board of Education reports 70 percent of high school graduates enrolled in a two-four year postsecondary degree.

Students who score high on the ACT perform as such because they are motivated to do so, according to English teacher Bill Fritz.

“Students not going to college have less incentive to take the test seriously,” Fritz said.

Stevenson students have traditionally always preferred college after high school. According to the Stevenson’s official school profile, approximately 97 percent of SHS graduates attend college.

Gwendolyn Zimmermann, assistant principal of teaching and learning, believes the ACT tests critical thinking skills similar to common core skills.

“In the past we’ve tended to focus more on content,” said Gwendolyn Zimmermann, “Common core tends to emphasize some of those skills such as problem solving and reasoning skills. The post common core era focuses on strategies enabling one to do well compared with content knowledge.”

Concerning the English portion, the common core curriculum incorporates learned skills the reading portion of the test requires.

“In the English passages, there are strategies that can be taught,” Zimmermann said. These strategies can be learned through any number of ACT prep programs, tutors or through the school.

Kevin Acuna ’18 who obtained a perfect ACT score, attributes his success to his Stevenson courses.

“The two classes that have helped the most are Junior AP English and AP Biology,” Acuna said. “We learned to understand the more complex sentence structures and what the words mean, versus what they say.”

Although no ACT prep is being offered during school hours, it seems unnecessary since scores are rising. An online program called Revolution is free to all juniors.

“Data seems to indicate not a lot of kids are using it,” Zimmermann said. She attributes this to the presence of built in support from the classrooms combined with outside resources.

Stevenson provides aid by invitation only to students whose Explore or practice ACT tests indicate they are not reaching benchmark scores of 18 for English and Composition and 22 for College Algebra. In these instances, test prep targeted to their needs is provided.

“The ACT is measures proficiency in Algebra II, and of course, many of our kids are past Algebra II,” Zimmermann said. Stevenson’s accelerated math environment give the scores a boost according to Zimmerman.

In the rest of the country, the Princeton Review reports ACT scores have stagnated past years with average scores being 20-21.

“Students are so well prepared across the board because a lot of our students chose to take advantage of out-of school prep services,” Zimmermann said.

Outside standardize testing services are common, with 19 tutors and tutoring services being offered by Stevenson in 2015, not including the numerous online resources available.

One private tutoring service offers six hours of math and six of reading for $1140.000 plus $100.000 for materials. You can also get 18 hours of tutoring in a 6:1 student teacher ratio for $599 from another service.

“The more money a school has, the higher their test scores are,” Fritz said. “Stevenson’s test scores are not going up in a bubble. They’re going up in Libertyville, Highland Park, New Trier, and Deerfield. It’s following the money.”

A portion of Stevenson’s funding depends on how well the students do on standardized tests each year. Non-increasing scores leads to a loss of money for the school. Efforts put in to increase these scores subsequently help students when in comes to the ACT.

“I have a feeling the ACT tests how much money the school has, what resources the schools have and what the students goals are,” Fritz said.