St. Charles students score their best ever on ACT
The 2015-16 graduating class from St. Charles' high schools posted the best overall ACT score the district has ever recorded.
And the 23.8 overall composite score will stand as an unbeatable record: The class was the last to take an ACT exam in District 303.
School board members celebrated the ACT success even as they contemplated how to judge future academic performance in the district Monday night. St. Charles students, as well as students in the rest of Illinois' public schools, will take SAT exams for the first time this school year.
The test won't allow for a direct comparison to the ACT, though David Chiszar, the district's executive director of assessment and accountability, said he will be able to extract some details from SAT performance that will allow some rough comparison.
The class of 2015-16 will be tough to beat in any respects. The class posted the highest District 303 scores in English (23.6) and reading (23.8). It also tied the highest score for science (23.4). The overall score of 23.8 is a full three points better than the average overall ACT score for Illinois schools.
School board members have paid close attention to finding academic parity between St. Charles East and St. Charles North high schools. The overall ACT score for the graduating class at St. Charles North was 24.1, another record. The overall ACT score for the same class at St. Charles East was 23.5, which ties the high score set in 2010 and matched in 2014.
"We're leaving behind the ACT on the highest note ever," Chiszar said. "It's kind of like winning the World Series and the coach retiring."
The district will continue to use participation in and performance on advanced placement tests as an academic benchmark. It's a measure that the district may have few true peers for comparison.
Unlike most other high schools, District 303 sets no academic barriers to participation in advancement placement courses. All students may enroll as long as they accept a district mandate to also take the AP test that matches the course.
When the district first began tracking AP performance, fewer than 300 students in the district took the courses and exams. Now, about 10 years later, more than 1,400 students took 2,537 AP exams in 2016. About 77 percent of those exams resulted in scores qualifying the students to receive college credit.
All of those marks are improvements over last year and part of a long-term trend. Despite the tests being accessible to students of any previously demonstrated academic ability, the participation in the tests and test results continue to improve.
Kathy Hewell was on the school board that set that AP testing standard.
"The amount of success our students have had is well beyond anything I could have hoped for," Hewell said. "The idea was just to have students take the classes to see what college was like. But the results we're seeing now are pretty astounding.
"It's surprising to see what can happen when you create an expectation, how students rise to the occasion and challenge themselves. It's really striking. We have many kids of all kinds of abilities being successful."