Archive for Thursday, August 17, 2006

City’s ACT scores beat national average

August 17, 2006

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In Lawrence as in Lake Wobegon, the children are above average.

Their ACT scores say so.

According to figures released Wednesday, Lawrence and Free State high school students - last year's juniors and seniors, mostly - topped both the state and national averages.

"This means a variety of things," said deputy Supt. Bruce Passman. "It's a credit to our students who study hard and perform well, and it's a credit to our teachers and to our curriculum; we think our curriculum is rigorous; our teachers are high-quality."

ACT tests measure abilities in English, math, reading and science.

In Kansas, the average score was 21.8 out of a possible 36. The national average was 21.1.

At LHS, the average score was 22.9; at Free State, 23.0.

The Free State average marked a decline from the previous two years; the LHS figure was an increase over the previous year.

John Poggio, an education professor at Kansas University, said Free State's three-year decline was not cause for alarm.

"It's what we call a typical variation," Poggio said. "If you took 30 pennies and threw them up in the air, you would expect 13 or 14 to come up 'heads' and 17 or 16 to be 'tails.' That's what this appears to be. I don't see a trend."

It's significant, he said, that both high schools' scores topped the state and national averages by 1 and almost 2 points, respectively.

"Those are good, rock-solid numbers," Poggio said.

Still, he cautioned against reading too much into the number, noting that not all in the junior and senior classes took the test. If they had, he said, the results might be different.

At FSHS, 279 students took the test; at LHS, 217.

"We had 241 take it the year before," LHS Principal Steve Nilhas said. "We had some students take it more than once, and we had some take the SAT or the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) - and doesn't include the state assessment tests and the new ones we have coming up this year."

Nilhas, too, said the numbers should be kept in perspective.

"We've had some up years, and we've had some down years," he said. "This is an up year; you always like that better.

"But the kids who took the ACT are the college-bound kids. We want them to do well, but the bottom line is we want all our kids to do well."

The two high schools' average scores by subject:

¢ English: LHS, 22.7; FSHS, 22.9.

¢ Math: LHS, 22.8; FSHS, 22.3.

¢ Reading: LHS, 23.7; FSHS, 24.0.

¢ Science: LHS, 22.0: FSHS, 22.4.

Only LHS' science score was less than a full point above the state averages, but all the others were at least a full point above.

"There's not a lot of difference between the two schools' scores," Passman said. "They're both virtually the same, they're both performing really well."

Comments

prioress 8 years, 8 months ago

Not quite true, as it relates to ACT. Some kids may take those expensive courses that claim to raise one's score. The best way to get a good score is to take four years of difficult college prep classes and actually learn the material. You may be confusing ACT with the Kansas Assessments, where there is some coaching and practicing gong on. I'm always amused by the faith in ACT and SAT, which barely predict one's freshmen grades, but only the first semester. Testing is, however, a boon for those who own stock in ETS.

unite2revolt 8 years, 8 months ago

I think any good researcher would define the variance as statistically insignificant. On a test that scores you only based on correctly answered questions, guessing wrong does not count agianst you. The ACT sets ranges for scores that reflect academic preparedness for college 20-23 is one of those ranges. So the real news is that the average Lawrence score is in the same range as the average State and National score.

Also if we really wanted to study the test taking abilities of Lawrence students we should be looking at the median or even mode score, not the average as outlayers would impact the average significantly. For example the following 10 scores would produce an average score of 23: 15, 15, 15, 15, 15, 28, 29, 32, 32, 34. The median score would be 21.5. The mode would be 15.

prioress 8 years, 8 months ago

True. People make too much of these scores. Regardless of ACT or SAT tests, about 1/2 of the students don't earn a degree in 4-5 years. Sometime, check out the survival rate of the kids from large schools vs. some of the smaller, more rural ones.......you'd be surprised at the results.

badger 8 years, 8 months ago

I think this is a good thing.

A lot of students actually work very hard to prep for these tests. Why should prepping for the ACT, which has a significant chance of affecting your college admissions, be any different from prepping for a history or biology exam?

I don't see why this result should be dismissed. If this article were saying that a higher percentage of students passed, for example, their algebra finals, it'd be considered a good thing.

I think Lawrence should be proud of its kids for this. I mean, if the kids from Lawrence schools were all lower than the national average, half of you would be complaining about how awful it meant Lawrence schools are, and blaming either budget cuts or 'moonbats' for it. You don't have to find a reason to trash every good thing that happens in your town, really you don't.

jayhawks71 8 years, 8 months ago

unite, the sample sizes are pretty good, at over 210 per group. And statistical "insignificance"? No such thing, or at least a misnomer... not to mention the weakness of null-hypothesis significance testing.

Further, knowing the variability would be helpful, but it probably isn't as large as one might think. The people taking the test would be college-bound (in theory), so much of the low end would be truncated. You probably aren't going to have the mode down around 15. I would argue against using the mode in this situation, as you probably have a multi-modal distribution.

The mean probably would be a bit higher than the median (again, the college-bound effect), but if you are comparing local to state to national, you should use the same measure of central tendency across the three.

unite2revolt 8 years, 8 months ago

ACT scores don't really affect your college admission much, your GPA has much greater impact. What ACT scores do affect is what classes you might be required to take when you get admitted.

I am proud that we are not below the national average. But I don't think we need to pander to the school district's press release. Since we are dealing with averages here; one would assume that half of all test takers from all over the globe test higher than the national average. How many other communities had a newspaper article about how great their highschools were, because their kids didn't score below average. Would we even have heard in the paper if our students HAD scored below average or would USD 497 maybe decide not to issue a press release about that?

If we are going to evaluate school effectiveness, some investigative reporting might be in order for a change. For example how many Class of 2000 graduates have incomes greater than $30,000.00 or even better how many freshmen from 2002 actually graduated from highschool back in May? Or for a more Jay Leno style approach; how many graduating seniors can pass the citizenship test?

girly 8 years, 8 months ago

I was curious as to what is the highest number score you can get, and how many kids get closer to that.

conservative 8 years, 8 months ago

girly, the highest possible is a 36. No idea how many kids get into the 30's, but back when I was in college I remember that you had to have a 30 or better to avoid certain math courses.

Confrontation 8 years, 8 months ago

It's sad that a 22 is considered good. I guess it's the dumbing down of education across the board. I would like to see the percentage of students who scored lower than that, and how many much smarter students helped boost the score.

badger 8 years, 8 months ago

Given that many colleges have a minimum SAT or ACT score for admission, I think it does have a lot to do with your college admissions.

In high school, one of my friends had to take the ACT three times to meet the minimum requirement for the school she wanted, even though she had better than a B average. She was just really bad at standardized tests, so the ACT almost kept her out of her first choice school. In some states, like Missouri, state school scholarships are available based only on the ACT.

Is it pandering to a press release that I think kids in Lawrence ought to be commended for ACT scores above the state and national averages? Sure, it could be a statistical fluke, but it could also mean they worked hard and studied.

People are in such a hurry to trash just about anything to do with the school system these days that they find it nigh-impossible to simply acknowledge that not everything associated with kids and school is going to be a dire prediction of future doom, a complaint about irresponsible behaviour, or a reason to point fingers at why a system is broken.

unite2revolt 8 years, 8 months ago

jayhawk,

Sorry but I really hope the variability is as large as I think other wise the number of truely bright students in Lawrence is much lower than I expect. 20-23 is on the low end of the test scale. Scores below 13 are not even measured on the college preparedness scale. A score of 22 on the math portion for example would suggest that a student exhibits knowledge of elementary number concepts including rounding, the ordering of decimals, pattern identification, absolute value, primes, and greatest common factor but doesn't know how to order fractions or work with square numbers.

ksmoderate 8 years, 8 months ago

Also, ACT dumbed down their scores a few years ago. If the score I received in 1995 was adjusted for today, it would be two points higher.

That being the case, I'm not sure we should all be extremely proud of scores in the low 20's. I would hope we could do better as a society, but education lags behind in America.

High school GPAs can be misleading as well. I know way too many college freshmen who, despite earning a 3.0 or better GPA in high school, are placed in remedial language and math courses upon entering college.

Sad.

prioress 8 years, 8 months ago

I was curious as to what is the highest number score you can get, and how many kids get closer to that. ++++ As mentioned earlier, 36, and only a few dozen across the country achieve that each year. Kansas does pretty well, and always has, particularly with children who are living in stable, middle class homes. We tend to test about 70% m/l each year on ACT, which is higher than many states. Back when the scores were "higher" (hard to measure with renormed tests,) the principals decided whom they would "allow" to take the tests. Now, many students are encouraged to take it, just to give them a feel for what they may be up against. We should be proud of the Lawrence students, all of them. On the other hand, there is much work to be done, starting with a realization that, perhaps, too many people are trying colleges when, if they are just interested in income, they can learn a skilled trade and achieve incomes similar to many with master's degrees. Go to college if you love learning, writing and researching new ideas. Don't go simply because you think you will get a "good job."

unite2revolt 8 years, 8 months ago

badger,

The key point is the school she wanted, she could have gone to (a) college with out retaking the test. My point is that it is not a fluke to score above the national average in fact given the data provided in the article lawernce students haven't scored below the national average in at least 5 years. So frankly I dont think it is noteworthy or newsworthy. If the lawrence average was a 26 or 27 then I might think it was at least worth a press article.

badger 8 years, 8 months ago

Unite2revolt -

Any yayhoo can get into Floyd and Lola's School of College Learning without getting a good ACT or SAT score. Just getting into a college isn't the deal, or more people would go to K-State or Texas A&M.

It does matter what school you go to, because that can determine what majors are available, the quality of education you receive, exchange and independent study programs, internship and lab assistant opportunities, grad school preparedness, and employability. You can't tell me that when law schools are looking at two different applications with about the same qualifications, the one whose 4.0 and letters of recommendation came from a top-tier school won't be preferred to the one whose 4.0 and letters of recommendation came from Emporia State University.

If you're just going to college to get the piece of paper, then any college will do. However, if you're going to get an education or to prepare you for a career or further schooling, it's disingenuous to suggest that whether or not you have the grades and test scores to get into your first or second choice school doesn't really matter that much.

unite2revolt 8 years, 8 months ago

badger,

My friend, Mike Hodgson, that graduated from K-State with an english degree went to law school at the University of Wisconsin. I don't know what his LSAT test scores or gpa were. That law school was ranked # 32 in the nation by USNews this year. So in fact yes I can tell you that it doesn't matter what school you went to or what degree you had when you apply for law school.

BTW KU ranked #70 on that list.

StinkyBritches 8 years, 8 months ago

Badger,

Graduate Schools, and Businesses are more and more looking to intangible qualities in individuals and placing them on a higher priority than the place of education.

For example, Law Schools now take into account extra curricular activities, leadership qualities, minority status, and a myriad of other factors in determining whether to accept a candidate.

Businesses are looking more and more to hire individuals who have proven they can and are willing to lead full, diverse lives, and manage multiple tasks at the same time.

Moreover, in most cases, businesses hire more from local schools than they do from "ivy league" or other prestigous universities, because many of the business owners and managers are more familiar with those schools, having lived near them, and perhaps attended them.

For my money, I would take a K-State grad over a Notre Dame Grad any day of the week, provided they show me they have a high moral character, and a desire to get the job done and done right.

badger 8 years, 8 months ago

unite:

blink

Your friend should be very proud of his achievements, though I might remind you that the plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data'.

I think you misread me. I'll try again:

Let's say that a prestigious graduate school is only going to admit two out of the following three applicants for advanced degrees in a scientific field:

J. Smith, 4.0 from MIT, very active in student culture, great internships, excellent letters of reference from professors who worked closely with the student.

J. Smith, 4.0 from CalTech, very active in student culture, great internships, excellent letters of reference from professors who worked closely with the student.

J. Smith, 4.0 from Emporia State University, very active in student culture, great internships, excellent letters of reference from professors who worked closely with the student.

For the purpose of this discussion, it is assumed all three students are of the same race and gender and major, and that all qualifying exams, essays and interviews are of approximately similar quality, and all three students have taken undergrad coursework in the specialized area of their major that the grad school program is focused on. The program only has two places. Which one of those three do you think will not get into the program?

I'm not saying that people from schools like K-State or Emporia State can't get into a decent graduate school or get a good job. I'm saying that all other things being equal, being from a top-tier school gives you an edge over someone from a lesser-ranked school. Competition at the graduate level is intense, because there are so very many more applicants than there are available positions, and if you plan to go to grad school or law school, or get a job using your degree, and you've got the GPA and intellect to hack it at a top-tier undergraduate school, you're shooting yourself in the foot if you think it's not important to get into the best school you can handle.

It also matters what the school is known for. An engineer from Rolla has a better chance than a similarly qualified engineer from KU at getting a job, because Rolla has a better reputation as an engineering school. However, someone with a degree in architecture from KU has a better chance of getting a job than a similarly qualified person with an architecture degree from Rolla, because KU has a better reputation in architecture.

jayhawks71 8 years, 8 months ago

unite, some truly bright students might be taking the SAT instead; many of the more prestigious schools have traditionally required the SAT, not the ACT. The variability isn't going to be that large because you have a

Also ACT (and SAT) scales their scores based on the performance of the population of students who take the exam, not "how many you got right" (e.g. more in line with a "z-score"... see point number 2 on the link below).

http://www.actstudent.org/scores/understand/index.html#relationship

prioress 8 years, 8 months ago

If the lawrence average was a 26 or 27 then I might think it was at least worth a press article.... +++++ That's a huge score. I doubt any of the public high schools in Kansas score that well........

prioress 8 years, 8 months ago

"It's sad that a 22 is considered good. I guess it's the dumbing down of education across the board. I would like to see the percentage of students who scored lower than that, and how many much smarter students helped boost the score." +++++++++ You misunderstand the purpose of a "normed" test.

Shardwurm 8 years, 8 months ago

"It's a credit to our students who study hard and perform well, and it's a credit to our teachers and to our curriculum; we think our curriculum is rigorous; our teachers are high-quality."

No mention of parents. How typical of the educational community to believe they're the biggest influence on how well children perform in school.

Soon enough these 'high quality' teachers will be coming to the un-mentioned parents and the community to ask for even more money.

betti81 8 years, 8 months ago

What is the score required to play sports in college? Is it an 18? I am being lazy, can someone help me out?

thank you

prioress 8 years, 8 months ago

"What is the score required to play sports in college"----I think it's 17; NCAA web site would tell you more. To qualify as a freshman athlete, you also have to prove you took a pretty solid load of "real" classes......

ThomasJefferson 8 years, 8 months ago

"No mention of parents. How typical of the educational community to believe they're the biggest influence on how well children perform in school."

Exactly, it has nothing to do with the schools and everything to do with the parents who are associated with KU.

ksmoderate 8 years, 8 months ago

Shardwurm:

Yes, parents absolutely are essential in student success; I agree totally.

I was sad to read your disdainful comment about teachers, though. Teachers are some of the most underpaid and underappreciated people in our society, and that's sad....very sad. To trust these people with the education of our children but treat them like indentured servants is absolutely wrong. Teachers go through 4 or more years of college (racking up the college loans on the way) only to start teaching at 1/2 to 1/3 what other professions pay for the same education.

betti81 8 years, 8 months ago

thanks for the link prioress. This seems more complicated than I remember. While I did not participate in college athletics, some of my friends did. For some reason I think it was a single score a few years ago. (With no sliding scale or 'combined' score for the ACT).

anyway, good job to the kids. I took the ACT twice and ended up with a good score. I would have done even better if I could only figure out how to do math for standardized tests. The score (combined with my GPA) allowed me attend KU on almost a full ride scholarship. (I believe I could have gotten in elsewhere, but 'Jaydreamin' dies hard.)

Sigmund 8 years, 8 months ago

Poggio said. "If you took 30 pennies and threw them up in the air, you would expect 13 or 14 to come up 'heads' and 17 or 16 to be 'tails.' Ummm, I wouldn't. I would expect some such tosses (fair tosses of fair coins) to produce more than 15 heads and other tosses less than 15 and a few to produce exactly 15.

jayhawks71 8 years, 8 months ago

Which one of the following best represents a fair coin being flipped 10 times. (H) = heads T = tails

1) H H H H H H H H H H 2) T H H T H T T H T H 3) H H H H H T T T T T

Shardwurm 8 years, 8 months ago

"I was sad to read your disdainful comment about teachers, though. Teachers are some of the most underpaid and underappreciated people in our society, and that's sad....very sad."

Perhaps they are 'underpaid and underappreciated' for a reason.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Allow parents and students to be a part of the evaluation process. Make it easier to get rid of dead-weight teachers and promote good ones. Pay the performers and get rid of the losers.

When you do that I'll be all for paying and appreciating teachers. As it stands the lousy teachers get the same raise as the good ones.

If the teachers are all about 'quality' and 'standards' why won't they demand that their union get rid of tenure and start being paid based on performance?

Crickets

That's what I thought.

sun45kiss 8 years, 8 months ago

This is GREAT-I think there should be a test to certify adults .........adults; e.g. what do you do when someone cuts you off while driving ? You simply let them have the road.........etc.....

Godot 8 years, 8 months ago

I haven't read all the comments here (more to save my sanity than my time), so, if I repeat, forive me: I wonder if the educators who are happy to report the improvement in the ACT scores make note of the corelation of the improvement in scores and the implementation of No Child Left Behind? If not, then why do they delight in improvement in the result of one teachable test, yet decry the requirement of improvement of another one?

Either tests are a good measure of achievement, or they are not. Unless, of course, you are an educator, and then you, alone,are capable of deciding which tests are relevant, depending upon the outcome.

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