Students graduating from Wyoming high schools this year performed worse on average on the ACT than the graduating class before them, according to data released by the Department of Education last week.
High school juniors who took the test this spring, however, increased their average score over last year’s juniors by a few fractions of a point.
“We’re pleased to see a slight uptick (in the juniors’ scores), although the number isn’t as high as we would like it to be,” said Deb Lindsey, director of assessment for the Wyoming Department of Education.
Average ACT scores among Wyoming students graduating high school this year remain below the national average, as they did last year. On average, Wyoming high school students who reported expecting to graduate in 2013 posted a composite score of 19.8, compared to 20.3 last year and 20.9 nationally.
Nationally, there was a decline in this average composite score, though Wyoming graduates scored lower across all subject areas as well as in its average composite score, according to a state Department of Education release.
Wyoming tested more juniors than ever before with the ACT this year, which replaced the PAWS as the state’s standard assessment for grade 11 this spring. On average, Wyoming juniors taking the ACT this spring scored a 19.7, compared to last year’s 19.4. The Legislature will use this data for its state education accountability purposes, the release said.
The highest average ACT scores in Wyoming this year came from Washakie District 2, whose juniors posted an average ACT composite score of 22.4, followed by Sublette District 1 at 21.8, Teton District 1 with 21.6 and Big Horn District 2 with 21.5.
Nationally, this year’s highest average ACT score was posted by high school school graduates from Massachusetts, who scored on average a 24.1, the release said.
Juniors in Natrona County’s lone school district posted an average composite ACT score that ranked among the bottom third of all districts in Wyoming.
On average, Natrona County high school juniors scored 18.9 on the ACT this spring, compared to the state’s average of 19.7.
Those scores broke down among the schools as an average of 18.1 for juniors at Midwest High School, 19.1 at Kelly Walsh and Natrona County high schools and 14.9 at Roosevelt High School.
“Now that we have the ACT suite as the test that the Legislature is going to use for accountability purposes, it’s an opportunity for us to grow,” Mark Mathern, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction with the Natrona County School District, said. “We know we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
On a state level, Lindsey said, the Department of Education is digging deeper into data from each subject area tested on the ACT — math, science, reading and English — to better understand areas where Wyoming students are showing strengths and weaknesses.
“It’s one thing to say you need to do better in math, and bang your head against the wall saying you need to do better in math,” Lindsey said.
“But unless you know where you need to get better within math, you won’t know how to improve.”
The release of ACT data came shortly after results from this year’s Performance Assessment of Wyoming Students, or PAWS, showed Wyoming students’ proficiency decreased in every grade level and subject area tested this year.