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posted: 10/12/2013 8:00 AM

St. Charles students post record ACT average, or do they?

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By the standard that high schools are measured by possibly more than any other, St. Charles Unit District 303 reached a new personal best.

The students who graduated from District 303's two high schools posted the highest composite ACT score in the history of the district. But a close review of the results had some school board members still raising concerns about student achievement.

The composite score of 23.7 is 0.2 point better than the Class of 2012's results and 0.1 point better than the previous high score recorded by the Class of 2010.

The Class of 2013 also set new district highs in the subcategories of English, reading and science. The math subscore was the second only to the Class of 2010s score.

However, the numbers have to be viewed through the lens of an altered methodology. ACT, for the 2013 class and beyond, will not include the scores of all students who took the exam, including students with special accommodations.

If you factor those students in, the Class of 2013's ACT composite score was 23.4, and not a record. The 23.7 score was calculated by District 303 officials by taking out the scores of students with special accommodations. Every year, the district has 50 to 100 students with special accommodations who take the exam.

"The 2013 results start a new baseline, similar to what happened beginning in 2002 when Illinois began requiring all juniors in the state to take the ACT," said District 303 Superintendent Don Schlomann.

With that in mind, school board members applauded the overall results. But when comparing the ACT scores between St. Charles North and East high schools, school board members didn't like what they saw.

The data showed the overall ACT scores at North increased by 0.7. Meanwhile, the overall scores at East fell by 0.1.

"So even though we have the highest ACT composite score ever, it really is mostly due to the one school," said school board member Kathy Hewell. "So that's a concern. If you try to do a trend line, East is pretty much level and North is the one increasing."

Schlomann pointed out the demographics of the schools are vastly different. The number of students receiving free and reduced lunch is both higher and increasing at East. Those students historically don't perform as well academically as their more financially secure peers.

"There's no doubt about it; they are two different schools in regard to that," Schlomann said. "But I can tell you (East Principal Charlie) Kyle doesn't view that as an excuse."

The 2013 ACT scores will serve as the new benchmark for the district. Every year, the school board sets academic testing goals for the next class to achieve that are typically slightly higher than the preceding year.

One of those standards is the number of students who take Advanced Placement courses and exams. In 2013, the district saw students take 1,936 AP exams, well above the target of 1,750 set by the school board.

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