All three Columbus area high schools showed stable progress based on the latest 2018-2019 ACT test results recently released.
Columbus High School had a composite score of 18.6, similar to a year ago when it scored an 18.4. Lakeview High School had a composite of 18.8, slightly lower than what it pulled a year ago when students averaged a 19.3. Scotus Central Catholic High School continues leading the pack, putting together a composite score of 24.0 - the 10th-best for the school since it began tracking its ACT outcomes.
Scotus President Jeff Ohnoutka said that the numbers were impressive considering that 90 percent of eligible students have taken the ACT at some point.
“It’s certainly an impressive score,” Ohnoutka said. “Considering that 90 percent of our graduating students took that test last year, it’s a real validation of the curriculum that is taught here, the work ethic of our students and the dedication of our teaching staff that makes the Scotus Central Catholic education a valuable one.”
The scores at Scotus stand up well against the rest of the state. For instance, Scotus regularly scores about four to five points above the state average (2019 Nebraska graduating seniors averaged a score of 20) and large groups of Scotus students meet the ACT benchmarks for performance.
“Forty-five percent of our students who took the test are college-ready in all four categories (English, math, social science, biology),” Ohnoutka said. “The state average for meeting all four is 22 percent, so we are two times the state average on being ready in all four categories.”
For Lakeview, Curriculum Director Quentin Witt said that the different strengths and weaknesses of classes make it difficult for people to evaluate the numbers from year to year. Lakeview scored slightly below the state average last year on its composite, though 27 percent of Lakeview's students met the benchmarks, which was above the state average.
“You have a different group of students that you’re testing each year, so it’s a little bit hard to compare from year to year,” Witt said. “We do see continual trends. Our math and science trends fairly well, whereas, our reading and English sometimes fall a little short.”
At CHS, Curriculum Director Amy Romshek said that proficiency for the school has been higher in language arts and math, but lower in science.
“We will work to increase proficiency in all three areas,” Romshek said.
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Each school works with their students to make sure that the ACT process runs as smoothly as possible. Scotus incorporates ACT prep within its classes and provides plenty of free resources for students to be as ready as possible when they decide to take the test.
“There are lots of free practice tools that are out there for them to use,” Ohnoutka said. “From a teaching standpoint, as part of our curriculum for all of our core classes (for) grades 10-12, we incorporate ACT preparation into our classes. The students are getting practice tests, they’re doing problems in math and science that are similar to ACT problems. Also, in reading, they’re doing a lot of non-fiction reading for grades 10-12, we do a lot of timed readings as well in order for them to be put under the gun a little bit to get that reading test done in the time allowed.”
Lakeview is currently working on new resources for reading in order to eventually bridge the gap between its solid math and science scores and its lukewarm reading and language arts scores.
“We feel like we need to improve our curriculum offerings,” Witt said. “We have also added new reading resources to teach reading to our K-eighth graders. We implemented that this fall and we’re hoping to reap some (gains) there, however, it’s a slow-moving train.”
At CHS, a stronger focus is being placed on getting students college-ready and meeting the higher standards that come with that. Romshek said that curriculum is being rewritten at various levels, including in science, where resources have been upgraded to go along with the new measure of success.
“We are in the process of rewriting science curriculum to align with the Next Generation Science Standards and providing updated resources to support this alignment,” Romshek said.
Above all else, having motivated students helps with getting and keeping high scores on the ACT. No matter what school, from Scotus to Lakeview to CHS, students can only go as far as they dream to go.
“You have to bank on motivated students, students who are interested in taking their education beyond high school,” Ohnoutka said.
Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.