College and Career Readiness Benchmark Scores

Dear Parents,

Some of our current goals in the school district are focused on increasing the percentage of students who meet or exceed the college and career readiness benchmark scores on the ACT family of tests. These tests include the Explore test for 8th and 9th grade students, the Plan test for 10th grade, and the ACT for 11th and 12th grade students. Each test provides readiness benchmark cut scores that let us know if students are on track to be set up educationally for success in their career or in college after high school. For the first time, we are planning on giving the Explore and Plan to 8th, 9th, and 10th grade students this spring. This information will let us know where our students are in each of those grades, and help us to focus more on their learning needs as well.

However, our faculty is not just waiting to see how our students do on the tests on April. All of our teachers have begun placing considerably more focus on reading in their classrooms, and they are specifically teaching students skills such as “reading with a pen in hand” which helps the students focus and mark important content, note why it is important in the margins, maybe draw arrows to connect information or concepts, and also note questions or things they don’t understand. Often after the students read a sample with this strategy, which is referred to as close reading, the class usually discusses the article so the teacher can model and guide full comprehension of the ideas involved. We know students are doing a great deal more reading in classes throughout OHS than they have in the past, and we believe strategies such as close reading will improve the reading comprehension of all of our students. Improving reading comprehension, especially with difficult texts, is a considerable focus of the Common Core State Standards as well as college and career readiness measures.

Another significant change our faculty has put in place to begin the process of improving the percentage of students who meet or exceed readiness benchmark scores is they are using sample ACT tests mixed in with their own assessments. This practice allows all of us to get a better understanding of exactly what our students can do, and where we need to build their skills. Our English department gave an ACT style assessment at each grade level and they are currently looking at the results to understand what students at each level do well and where we need to focus more instruction. The science department has taught specific college and career readiness thinking processes collectively from grades 4-12, and they have used ACT resources in this process. One area that our students were not very proficient in the past was in the ability to understand data presentations in the form of charts and graphs, and the Science teachers’ focused instruction on these skills has moved student’s abilities in that area forward considerably. Our math department has divided all of the ACT scoreband standards (these standards describe what students can do based on their score at various levels on the ACT) and they built them right into the standards of their classes. In some ways, these scoreband standards have helped them interpret the Common Core Standards with more clarity. The rest of our teachers are really working to make substantial contributions in the area of reading comprehension. These non-core teachers are working in teams to build students reading abilities with informational texts with increasingly more rigorous samples. They have also studied what exactly is assessed in terms of reading–8 aspects of reading comprehension–and they are having students read and discuss reading more on a regular basis so they can have a big impact on helping us reach our goals.

Again, if you have any questions about this information or anything else, please do not hesitate to call me at 564-2346 x1001. I have attached a copy of the readiness benchmarks above as well.

Have a great week,

Scott