WATERLOO — ACT scores rose for Waterloo Community Schools’ class of 2018 as the average dropped at the state and national level.
Last spring’s graduates at East, West and Expo high schools who took the college entrance exam earned an average composite score of 20.8, up by 0.7 from 2017.
“That is an increase from last year and we actually did increase in all of the four areas — English, math, reading and science,” said Stephanie Mohorne, the district’s associate superintendent for educational services.
For Cedar Falls High School, 2018 graduates had an average composite score of 23.4, a drop of 0.2. “We had slight decreases in every one of the assessments, just one-tenth or two-tenths,” said Dan Conrad, Cedar Falls Community Schools’ director of secondary education. That reflected similar drops on the four tests for the state and national averages.
Iowa City-based ACT testing service released that data today for 1.91 million 2018 graduates across the country. There were 24,028 Iowans who took the ACT, or 68 percent of last spring’s graduating seniors. Iowa’s average composite dropped 0.1 to 21.8. The national average is 20.8 out of a possible 36.
Of the 12 other high schools across Black Hawk County and the surrounding area that took part in a survey of 2018 ACT results by The Courier, average composite scores went down for four, up for seven and remained the same for Independence High School. Decreases in the scores ranged from 0.2 to 2.1 points and increases ranged from 0.1 to 1.2 points.
Others that showed improvement included Columbus, Don Bosco, Gladbrook-Reinbeck, Grundy Center, Union, Waterloo Christian and Waverly-Shell Rock high schools. Those schools are listed on the accompanying chart except Grundy Center, which was inadvertently left off. Their composite average for the class of 2018 was 22.6, up 0.4. Thirty-two students took the ACT, or 64 percent of the graduates.
Mohorne noted an improvement in the percentage of Waterloo students who met college readiness benchmarks on four subjects the ACT report highlights.
On readiness for college social science, the district gained nine percentage points to reach the state average of 54 percent. Improvements in the other subjects still fell short of the state averages. Those are 70 percent in college English composition, 45 percent in college biology and 44 percent in college algebra.
Looking at college readiness measures for Cedar Falls students, “percentages went down just slightly in every one of those areas,” said Conrad.
Overall, this was the second year the district’s the average composite score dropped. For the prior two years, Cedar Falls’ average score was the highest ever achieved by the district.
“It’s not a cause for concern,” Conrad said. “We’re still well above the state average and we’re pleased with that.”
Still, administrators plan to analyze those decreases so the district can better prepare students for college. A key to that is completion of the recommended number of core courses in math, English, science and social studies.
“The more kids that complete a core curriculum, the better they do on the assessment,” said Conrad. One positive he noted was that minority student groups with one exception increased their average composite scores.
Mohorne suggested Waterloo’s improvements on the ACT relate to a concerted effort by the district. She noted, “I will say our high schools have really focused on upping the rigor for all our kids.” That includes more writing in all classes, no matter what the subject.
“Research has shown that writing across the curriculum leads to increases in all areas, and this is one of the data points that we are seeing,” said Mohorne. “In no way do we say that we’ve arrived, but this shows that we’re making progress toward our goals.”