October 11 , 2005
Bemidji high schoolers top state, nation in average ACT scores
By Michelle Ruckdaschel Pioneer Staff Writer
Students at two Bemidji high schools topped both the state and national ACT score averages during last school year.
Overall, the ACT scores of both Bemidji High School and TrekNorth High School students reached beyond the average state composite score of 22.3 and average national composite score of 20.9.
The 192 BHS students who took the ACTs during the 2004-2005 school year had an average composite score of 22.6. The 15 TrekNorth students who took the ACTs averaged 23.6.
Both high schools improved in all four ACT subject areas – English, math, reading and science – over the prior year.
A handful of Voyageurs Expeditionary High School students took the ACTs this summer, but the Bemidji charter school has not yet received an official ranking of the results, Interim Director Deb Carlson-Doom said. Because the school has gradually added grades each year since it opened three years ago, this is the first year it has seniors attending.
Results at BHS
“I’m very pleased with the results our students have shown in all areas,” BHS Counselor Bruce Campbell said.
BHS has been and will continue to be an educational leader, he added. For the past five years, BHS students have outscored the state in average ACT composite scores.
He said students are seeing recent BHS graduates succeed and want to follow in their footsteps. He also believes rigorous courses, staff dedication and parent support contributed to the higher ACT scores during the 2004-2005 school year.
“And our enrollment in the AP courses continues to climb,” said Campbell, adding that BHS has made a strong effort to offer Advanced Placement and other advanced courses. “We’re going to continue to offer as many AP courses as we can.”
But the most important ingredient for the batch of improved ACT scores is the student, BHS Principal Richard Anderson said. He said students have to be willing to put in the effort and time to learn.
It’s the quality of the high school’s students and their ACT scores, along with the number of AP courses offered at BHS, that draws many colleges and universities to send recruiters to BHS, he said. For example, he said, Harvard University recruited three 2005 BHS graduates and now sends a recruiter to the high school every year.
The BHS students who took the ACTs during the last school year did better than the average Minnesota student in English, math and reading.
In English, they averaged a 22 score while the state average was 21.6. The BHS students scored an average of 22.2 in math, slightly more than the 22.1 state average. In reading, the students had a 23.4 average score compared to the state’s 22.7 average score.
The BHS students, however, averaged a score of 22.3 in science, which is slightly lower than the 22.4 state average.
To help prepare students for the ACTs, the high school started offering ACT preparation this year with the help of staff volunteers, Campbell said.
And this month, he added, BHS also plans to give all sophomores a pre-ACT test called the PLAN test. He said the high school has offered this test in the past on a voluntary basis, but will now require all sophomores to take it beginning this school year.
Anderson said the PLAN test provides students an opportunity to learn which subject areas they are strong in and which areas need more work.
Results at TrekNorth
At TrekNorth High School, Lead Teacher Mike Munson said he is pleased with the overall ACT scores of students.
“I think we expect our kids to do well,” he said.
The 15 students at the charter school who took the ACTs during the last school year did better than the average Minnesota student in the subject areas of English, reading and science.
In English, they averaged a 23.2 score while the average in Minnesota was 21.6. In reading, TrekNorth students rose past the state average score of 22.7 with an average score of 25.3. And in science, the students averaged 23.6 compared to the state’s 22.4 average score.
TrekNorth students, however, scored a 21.5 average in math, which is less than the 22.1 average score in Minnesota.
One of the reasons, Munson said, is the school – which opened three years ago – experienced some turnover in the math department from the school’s first year to its second year. He said TrekNorth’s math program experienced a lag at the start of the last school year with the hiring of new teachers.
During the second semester of last year, the school put into place higher level math courses, including AP calculus, Munson said. And, he said, he expects ACT math scores of TrekNorth students to improve.
“I think we’re really up to speed now in all four (subject) areas,” he said.
He cited much of TrekNorth’s success to the school’s vertical training curriculum – which focuses on skill-building – and a growing staff interest in student individual progress.
“We teach the skills, not just the content, necessary for greater academic success,” Munson said.
Officials at both BHS and TrekNorth feel their schools offer opportunities that will prepare their students for college.
Anderson said numerous parents have told him that their children blended right into to life at college after graduating from BHS. He said believes this is due much to the rigorous coursework BHS offers and the high school’s four-period day.
“The students are used to concentrating and focusing for a long period of time,” he said.
And TrekNorth, Munson added, offers a full college preparation curriculum.
He said the school has moved away from holding informal classes during part of the day like it did during its first year to now offering structured classes all day. Combined with a stronger focus on individual student growth and small class sizes, students now have a better opportunity to discover their hidden talents, he said.
Through collaborative research with postsecondary institutions nationwide, ACT has established the following college readiness benchmark scores for designated college courses: