Catholic school ACT scores top public, private scores across state

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Catholic School students scored higher on the ACT college test than other students in the state. Catholic students also saw an increase in scores over last year and an overall increase over a five-year period, according to the organization that administers the test.
The ACT is a test used to measure college readiness in English, math, reading and science. It is open to high school upperclassmen. Composite scores rose from 22.3 last year to 22.9 this year. The state average score was 18.7. The state score includes all of the public and private school students tested across the state. The highest possible score is 36 and the national average falls between 20 and 21. The highest gains from last year came in English and reading, both of which rose by a full point from 23 to 24 in English and 22.5 to 23.5 in reading. State averages in those subjects were 18.7 and 19.3 respectively.
Math scores rose .7 to 21.2; science scores rose .3 to 22.4. To put some of these numbers in perspective, a student with a score of 18 in English composition is considered ready for college-level courses in that subject. Students who score 22 in the Algebra section, 22 in social science and 23 in biology are all considered to be ready to pass a college course.
“We are thrilled about the increase,” said Catherine Cook, superintendent of Catholic Schools. “While we are glad to see test scores reflecting the great work being done in our schools, we will continue to work toward ensuring that each student gets what he or she needs to succeed overall in whatever path they choose,” added Cook.
The test may be taken by high school students, but the work to prepare students for graduation and college starts in the earliest grades. The Diocese of Jackson has been on a mission to improve curriculum in all of its schools with help from the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), based out of Notre Dame University.
“In the past five years, we have implemented the ACE curriculum, which uses a set of standards written for our diocese by educators in our diocese” said Margaret Anzelmo, coordinator for academic excellence for diocesan schools. “It uses intentional structures between what students know and should be able to do at the end of the year,” she added. This individual planning means the educators in diocesan schools were able to discuss specific strengths and challenges within their schools and come up with the best ways to structure their curriculums, seek out needed resources and share success stories.
“We have also been using a standard walkthrough for principals to observe in classes and be able to offer feedback,” said Anzelmo.
Educators from every school took initial training at Notre Dame and then came back to the diocese to begin revising the curriculum for each subject and training their fellow educators on the method ACE uses. Each subject goes through a two-year assessment and revision followed by ongoing assessment and measurement.
“At the end of the day, we have great teachers and we emphasize the strength of each child,” said Anzelmo.