Lawrence schools once again exceed state, national averages in ACT scores

Lawrence High School, left, and Free State High School are pictured on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015.

Lawrence high schools showed an overall slight improvement on this year’s ACT, once again exceeding state and national averages, the Lawrence district announced this week.

Students at Lawrence and Free State high schools have scored above state and national averages at least seven years in a row, this time besting a Kansas average score of 21.7 and a national average score of 21.

The Lawrence district, including the 30 Lawrence Virtual School students who took the ACT during the 2016-2017 school year, reported an average composite score of 23.6. The test — which measures college readiness in English, mathematics, reading and science — is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score.

Scores in Lawrence have remained roughly the same over the last several years, though the district’s average did increase slightly in 2016-2017, jumping from 23.2 in 2015-2016. More than a dozen additional students took the most recent ACT.

Lawrence High School actually reported about 30 fewer students taking the test last year than in 2015-2016, which principal Matthew Brungardt attributes to a comparatively small class of 2017. The school experienced a slight bump in average scores, jumping from 22.7 to 22.8 over the last year.

“Overall, we’re pretty pleased,” Brungardt said, though he plans to keep an eye on “slipping” math scores at the school.

“One of the things we try to do is just have kids prepared for what’s next in life,” he said. “I think what can be inferred from this is yes, regardless of what path you want to take after Lawrence High School, we can provide you with the skills to be successful on that path.”

Every year, administrators at Free State High School aim for a composite ACT score of 24. While there’s “still work to be done” in preparing students for college courses across all four ACT test areas, principal Myron Graber said, he’s also “very happy” with the school’s 24.4 average score in 2016-2017.

Free State hovered just below the 24 mark in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years.

“It’s kind of a target goal that we’ve been shooting for, so it’s good to see that,” Graber said. “We also were trying to increase the number of students taking the test, which we did.”

Even with the 20 to 30 extra students who took the ACT in 2016-2017, Free State’s average score continued to climb last year, which Graber attributes to an academically strong class of 2017.

“We had 36 valedictorians last year, which is incredible. Out of that group there were 17 National Merit (semifinalists), so it was just a strong class,” Graber said. “We do try to emphasize the alignment between the ACT and our curriculum. We hope it had some impact.”

Lawrence Virtual School, which serves students across the state but belongs to the Lawrence district, scored an average of 22.8, also beating state and national averages.

Elsewhere in Lawrence, the private Bishop Seabury Academy once again reported the highest ACT scores in the city. The 28 students who took the test scored an average of 28. At Veritas Christian School, 15 students took the ACT, averaging a 23.4 composite score.