Waterford remains in top half in ranking of area school

By Vicky Wedig and Jennifer Eisenbart

Southern Lakes Newspapers staff

All but one of the four western Racine County public high schools scored above the state average on the 2013-14 ACT test, according to results released recently.

Among all Southern Lakes area schools, Elkhorn, Union Grove, Palmyra-Eagle and Delavan-Darien high schools showed average composite scores on the test that were below the state average of 22.1 out of a possible score of 36, Muskego and Waterford High Schools continued to be among the area leaders.

Muskego ranked tied for second in the area with an average composite score of 23.8, and had the highest participation rate with 76.9 percent of the class taking the test.

Muskego officials said it was the second highest score in recent times, and nearly a full point higher than in 2013.

Waterford, meanwhile, had a 22.9 average composite score to tie for sixth among area schools. Burlington had a 22.3 average composite, while Union Grove had a 21.8.

Waterford Union High School Superintendent Keith Brandstetter said while the test scores are nice, it’s not necessarily a focus at Waterford.

“I think in general it’s a focus we start with them before they come in,” he said of the students and academics. “The classes they take get them ready for the next step they take in life.”

Brandstetter added that classes are set to challenge students, and AP classes are also pushed.

“I think we focus on having some academic rigor,” he said.

The results are for 2014 graduates who took the test during high school, most their junior year.

The highest composite score among all Southern Lakes area schools was in Williams Bay where students scored 26.1 on average. The composite score is a compilation of results in English, math, reading, science and writing. The lowest composite score was in Delavan-Darien where students scored 19.9 on average.

Students who score 24 and above will be admitted to most colleges, and students who score in the low 20s can still attend college but won’t have as vast a selection of schools to choose from, Delavan-Darien Superintendent Robert Crist said.

Students who score below 20 might not have the ability that college admissions people are looking for, he said. In those cases, it’s time for students to do some soul-searching, assess their strengths and find technical college programs that will facilitate a career that uses those abilities.

Burlington, Waterford Union and Union Grove Union High School were fairly happy with their results.

“What I was excited about was our math score went up from last year, as did our reading score,” said BHS principal Eric Burling. “Those are two areas of emphasis we’ve been utilizing.”

Burling said the school is putting a lot of time into literacy skills, not just in reading in the English area, but being able to comprehend material in social studies, science and math texts.

Other scores were right with the trend, though the composite hasn’t budged in three years. Burling is interested to see what happens with next year’s scores, as those students will have been gone through the previous tests in the ACT Suite – the PLAN at eighth grade and the EXPLORE as tenth graders.

“It’ll be curious to see what 2015’s data looks like,” Burling said. “Hopefully, we can see growth in our overall composite score.”

Beginning this school year, all juniors will take the ACT test, which will replace the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination as the required state test.

A fee will no longer be charged for the test, and all juniors’ scores will be compiled.

Burling said BHS has been aligning to the ACT college readiness standards, and feels the test is fairer than the WKCE.

“I think the rigor of the ACT will be a good judgement,” said Burling, adding that the average scores will likely go down with all students taking the test, but more students needing help will be identified.

Brandstetter said the switch would probably take some time to adjust to.

“It’s a change,” Brandstetter said. “It’s going to take people a couple of years to get enough data.

“You don’t want to overreact on one year’s data.”

Historically, he said, states tend to drop at first, and then improve.

ACT SCORES sept2014