Beginning this school year, all Louisiana high school juniors will take the ACT as the exam is incorporated into Louisiana's Department of Education testing program.
"Every junior in the state will take the ACT this spring," said Morris Busby, Secondary Supervisor of Webster Parish Schools. "The only students not required to take the exam are special education students who are not attempting to receive a high school diploma."
The exam, which will be given March 19, will be free of charge and students may still take the ACT multiple times in addition to the required testing. Juniors and seniors receiving Free/Reduced meals are also eligible for up to two free ACT exams.
"Potentially, a student on free and reduced lunch could take the ACT three times for free," Busby said. "The waiver and application can be received from the school counselor."
Last year, 272 kids took the exam in Webster Parish. That number may double this year.
"Now we are looking at approximately 600 juniors will be taking the test this year," Busby said. "When you start looking at statistics, the more students that take a test like this, the lower the average results will be. That is because now we will not only be testing those students who have been preparing to go to college but also those that are undecided on college or have no plans to attend."
Student's performance will affect 25 percent of the high school's School Performance Score (SPS).
According to the Louisiana Department of Education website, schools must show improvement in the SPS by meeting a growth target. Growth targets represent the amount of progress a school must make every year to reach the state's SPS goal of 120 by the year 2014. Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year, schools will be working to achieve Growth Goals, which is an improvement of 5 points or a total of 150 points for "A" schools and an improvement of 10 points for "B"-"F" schools.
According to ACT College Readiness Report, Webster Parish students who tested last year earned an average English score of 19, which is a 0.4 increase over the previous year.
The district math score was 18.4, which is an increase of 0.3, and a Reading score of 19.5, an increase of 0.9, and a Science score of 19.5, which is and increase of 0.7.
The overall composite average score was a 19.2, which is an increase of 0.6 over last year.
"A sixth-tenth of a point may not seem like a lot of growth, but on the ACT that is a significant growth," Busby said. "So we are very pleased with that."
According to data provided by Busby, Webster Parish students who have taken Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Advanced Math have an average ACT score of 27 in the mathematics field compared to a 22.4 for the remainder of the state students who have taken these same courses.
However, Webster Parish students who have less than 3 years of mathematics courses have an average score of 15.5 as compared to a 16.2 at the state comparable group.
"Preparation by taking the required courses plus seeking even greater challenges does make a difference," Busby said. "One interpretation that can be drawn from the data is that students taking the recommended college preparatory courses score significantly higher than those that did not attempted such courses.
"If a student does not take the course that will prepare them for the ACT, they should not expect to do well on the ACT," he continued. "However, these statistics show if a student does take those courses, they are likely to do have a higher score."