What is the purpose of taking the ACT?
That was a question – and many others -- posed by the CHSD 218 school board president, Marco Corsi, at Monday night’s school board meeting. He is at the point where he wondered aloud if students at Shepard, Richards and Eisenhower High should even take the test at all.
“Is there a penalty if our district decides to no longer have our students take the ACT?” he said.
The ACT scores, based on a scale from 1 to 36, are used my most colleges to determine admittance. Students are allowed to take the test over to try to get a higher score, but Corsi questions the process in which test takers only see a score and not what they got right or wrong on the test.
“With the standardized testing demonstrated in the ACT, both students and teachers are unaware of the questions that were answered wrong,” Corsi said. “This is a senseless formula without any feedback.”
According to the 10-year ACT Profile history at District 218, there has been a decrease in student performance in test scores. The class of 2012 had the lowest ACT scores in the district with a composite score of 18.1. Scores have not plummeted that low since 2004 with a total composite score of 18.4. In 2013, test scores picked up again with an 18.7 average. The class of 2006 and 2010 mark the district’s highest composite score at 19.1.
Corsi criticized the process in which the ACT counts the number of questions on each test that the student answered correctly. It does not deduct any points for incorrect answers and there is no penalty for guessing. The student’s raw scores are converted to scale scores. The composite score and each test score, English, mathematics, reading and science, range from 1 to 36. The composite score is the average of the student’s four test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number.
The test should be broken down, by each section, informing both the teacher and student which questions were answered correctly and incorrectly, Corsi said.
“We also need to examine which types of students are answering certain questions wrong,” he said. “Are there a large number of non-English speaking students struggling with a certain question or are there honors students struggling with a certain question? How can we prepare our teachers to work more on certain areas of a subject to better prepare for the test? With this system in place right now, we will never know. All we receive is a data profile with each subject and the composite score totaling a simple number for each school year.”
In 2013, District 218 received average scores of 18.2 in English, 19.2 in mathematics, 18.2 in reading and an 18.9 in science. This year’s students are scheduled to take the ACT in the spring; however, Corsi questions the motive of the test.
“If we cannot distinguish what a student is having difficulties with, what is the purpose of the test?” he asked.
Corsi would like more informative feedback for the district and students regarding personal test scores and if that cannot be provided, he is left pondering the over the ACT in general.
The ACT, originally an abbreviation of American College Testing, college readiness assessment is a standardized test for high school achievement and college admissions in the United States produced by ACT, Inc. Students taking the ACT receive a number of different scores in their student report referred to as subject test scores in English, mathematics, reading and science.
Corsi has questions and he wants answers – including answers on the test.
“Let’s say if a large number of students got question number six wrong, we need to determine if there is something wrong with the question itself and then if there is not, we need to break it down even further than that,” Corsi said, “Our teachers are unable to help students better prepare for the ACT because the test does not provide results stating which questions students answered right or wrong.”