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Paynesville Press - September 26, 2001

2000-01 ACT scores highest in five years

By Michael Jacobson

ACT SCORES Paynesville Area High School's Class of 2001 recorded five-year highs on the ACT Assessment, a college-entrance exam. Paynesville's composite score for the ACT for 2001 was 23.4, the highest local score in five years and higher than state (22.1) and national (21.0) averages.

The good scores are good news to the students and staff at PAHS, said principal John Janotta. "I think our academics are reflected well by scores like this," he explained. "We've got a good staff that are preparing kids for college."

Students planning to attend college generally take the test. Testing usually starts in the summer before the senior year and continues until halfway through the senior year, said Janotta.

In 2000-01, 46 students (out of 94 seniors) took the ACT exam, which tests knowledge and skills in English, mathematics, reading, and scientific reasoning. PAHS students scored best in reading (23.9), scientific reasoning (23.7), and mathematics (23.0), and topped state and national averages in all four subject areas last year.

These results come a year after the school's composite average (all four subjects) was above the national average but below the state average in 1999-2000. PAHS scored above national averages but below state averages in all individual subject areas in 1999-2000.

In composite scores, PAHS has been above the national average for the last five years and has topped the state average in three of five years (1997-98, 1998-99, and 2000-01). The previous best in composite scores, within the last five years, was 22.8 in 1998-99 followed by 22.5 in 1997-98.

One reason for the high scores in 2000-01 was dramatic improvement by seniors who have not taken the so-called core college prep classes: four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and three years of science. Traditionally, students who have taken the core classes have scored two to four points better, on average, on the ACT Assessment. The scoring difference was 2.1 points in 1996-97, 3.4 in 1997-98, 3.6 in 1998-99, and 3.2 in 1999-00.

In 2000-01, the difference was only 0.1, as students who had taken all the core classes (36 students) scored 23.4 and students without all the core classes (10 students) scored 23.3. Students without all the core classes outscored their peers in English, 24.2 to 22.0, were just behind them in reading and scientific reasoning, and lagged behind in mathematics, 21.4 to 23.5.

Janotta said the school was not sure why the scores of students who hadn't taken all the core classes had improved so much in 2000-01.

The ACT report also includes a survey of students as to whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with their high school in several areas. Janotta was pleased with the overall increase in satisfied students over the past five years.

Students are significantly more satisfied in the following areas: library (61 percent satisfied in 2000-01 compared with 33 percent in 1996-97), laboratory facilities (57 percent in 00-01, 22 percent in 96-97), and career and education planning (52 percent in 00-01, 22 percent in 96-97).

Satisfaction was below 40 percent in only two areas in 2000-01: the variety of course offerings (33 percent satisfied) and honor programs/ accelerated courses (37 percent satisfied).

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