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ACTs a mixed bag for local schools

Minnesota is the only state in the nation where more than half of all ACT test takers are deemed 'college ready.'

According to recently released ACT data for 2012, in Minnesota an estimated 74 percent of students took the ACT tests, and 54 percent of those reached three of four college readiness benchmarks. All other states came in below 50 percent.

The ACT measures student proficiency with core material taught during basic high school classes - English, reading, math and science. ACT is a nationally recognized assessment test and colleges across the nation use the scores to help make admission decisions. Students who reach benchmark scores have a 50 percent chance of obtaining a 'B' or higher in college, or 75 percent chance of obtaining a 'C' - meaning they are more likely to pass college courses.

When ACT scores are broken down into the four categories, 78 percent of students who took the English test in Minnesota met the benchmarks; this is 11 percent higher than the nation's 67 percent.

In reading, 64 percent reached benchmarks; 12 percent higher than the nation's 52 percent.

In math, 62 percent reached benchmarks; 14 percent higher than the nation's 46 percent.

Minnesota's science scores were up 11 percent, too; with the state at 42 percent and the nation at 31.


In an interview last week, Principal Ehren Zimmerman said, "Some kids are blowing things out of the water" when it comes to ACT scores.

Overall, Perham High School students' ACT scores were above the national average but below state average by a few percent. This has been the trend for the last five years for Perham, which causes some concern for Zimmerman.

"Overall it's a pretty fair analysis on how the school is doing," said Zimmerman of the ACTs. While he is glad the scores are higher than the national average, he would like to see the scores inch up over the state average, also.

Zimmerman said the high school really pushes kids to take the ACT, even those who don't plan to go to college. If they change their minds and want to go to college a few years down the road, he said, not having the ACT done can be a roadblock.

The scores for Perham students were as follows: 77 percent of kids who took the English test met the benchmark, 60 percent met it for reading, 59 percent for math and 33 percent for science. Students who met benchmarks in all four subjects were 22 percent.

"Science is the one that concerns me," Zimmerman said, who plans on taking a closer examination at science lessons to see if they align with ACT standards.

Zimmerman said he is trying to make sure all lessons taught meet either ACT or state standards.

New York Mills

New York Mills juniors and seniors who took the ACT tests did very well.

In an interview with economics teacher Jay Sorensen, who helps students achieve ACT goals, as well as High School Principal Blaine Novak, both said they were excited about the scores, which raised the district's average from a five year trend.

In the past, test takers at NY Mills met benchmarks right around the state average. This year those who met benchmarks were 27 percent higher in math, 16 percent in English and 8 percent in both reading and science.

The scores were as follows: 94 percent of kids who took the English test met the benchmark, 72 percent met it for reading, 89 percent for math and 50 percent for science. Thirty-nine percent of students met benchmarks in all four subjects.

Sorenson said he offers tutoring and practice tests to help kids prepare for the ACTs. The school also has many prep books for kids to borrow.

"The kids took the test seriously,"Sorenson said, which is why they did well this year and it gives the school something to celebrate.

Although the district is above average on those passing and determined 'ready for college,' the district is below the state average on participation numbers. On average, half of NY Mills juniors participate in the test, whereas the state average is around 78 percent.