Billings high schoolers scored higher on the ACT college entrance exam last year than their counterparts in other parts of Montana.
“Our scores in the district continue to go up,” said Superintendent Keith Beeman. “We’ve continuously led the state.”
The composite score – a combination of the four parts of the test – for Billings School District 2 high school students is 22.6, six-tenths of a point higher than Montana’s average of 22.
The district’s average also is higher than the national average, which was 21. A perfect ACT score is 36.
Beeman acknowledged that the ACT is an elective exam that students don’t have to take. Those who do are usually those planning to attend college. But it’s still a valuable tool for measuring SD2’s performance against other districts, he said.
“What this tells us is our students … compete very well,” he said.
But ACT scores, like standardized test scores and compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, are only part of the picture. Beeman said the district needs to continue to focus on educating the “whole child.” Last week, the district learned that standardized test scores for some of its ethnic and poor students were below the mandated levels required for No Child Left Behind.
Also encouraging to district officials is its participation rate in the ACT. Over the last five years, participation in the test has gone up as enrollment in the district’s three high schools has gone down.
Enrollment at the three high schools has dropped from 5,541 students in 2006 to 5,180 students in 2010. Over the same period, students taking the test increased from 735 in 2006 to 784 in 2010. Typically, when enrollment falls, test participation follows, said Scott Anderson, director of secondary education for the district.
“In this case, they went up,” he said.
Some of that could be related to educators at both a national and local level increasingly stressing the importance of following high school with some form of post-secondary education, he said. But also, No Child Left Behind has in-creased the standards to which students must perform.
Students are leaving Billings high schools better prepared for college and the workforce than they were a decade ago, Beeman said. The ACT scores show Billings graduates are just as good – and in some cases better – than high school graduates in other parts of the state and the country.
“That diploma means something,” he said. “It means they’re ready to compete.”
Contact Rob Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 406-657-1231.