Principal Mark Wells was so excited Thurs­day, he couldn’t stand behind the podium.

In front of an all-school assembly at John Hardin High School, he surprised students with news that the senior class made history by posting the highest ACT score for the school. They took the test as juniors in March.

“This is one of the coolest things we’ve done in 17 years,” Wells said.

With an overall score of 21.0, the students beat the previous record by ninth-tenths of a point, a big deal on the ACT. They surpassed the state average by 1.2 points and are in Kentucky’s top 50. In another first, John Hardin posted the highest score in the Hardin County Schools district.

“Seniors, I can’t even explain how proud I am,” Wells said at the assembly. “I want to give each of you a hug.”

To celebrate, Wells made a banner with the score that will hang in the commons area until another class knocks off the Class of 2018.

“Juniors, you get the first shot,” he said.

The success of the Class of 2018 partly is the result of several strategies and programs implemented over the last few years, Wells said.

He said while he doesn’t like focusing so much on one test, the scores can determine college admissions, scholarships and class placement. Talking about the test’s importance is a way to get students to buy-in.

“You’ve heard me give speech after speech about why composite score is so important for you,” he said at the assembly.

To help students on the ACT, John Hardin uses a weekly Power Hour to give students ACT-based instruction in all testing areas — math, science, English and reading. Wells said students are grouped based on need during the hour-long session.

“(The seniors are) the first group to go through the cycle and have three years with an effective Power Hour,” he said. “I think we saw benefits from that.”

Local ACT Scores

School English Mean Score % Meeting Benchmark Math Mean Score % Meeting Benchmark Reading Mean Score % Meeting Benchmark Science Mean Score Composite Mean Score
Elizabethtown High School 22.1 70.9 21.2 54.7 22.8 66.5 21.8 22.1
LaRue County High School 20.7 64.4 20.7 59.4 21.3 60.9 20.8 21.0
John Hardin High School 21.4 70.1 19.9 47.2 21.3 58.0 20.9 21.0
Central Hardin High School 20.2 65.3 20.7 58.3 20.9 59.0 20.3 20.7
College View Campus 14.7 25.9 15.4 7.4 15.8 22.2 15.3 15.4
North Hardin High School 18.5 53.9 19.4 45.6 19.6 48.8 19.2 19.3
HCS District Average 19.7 61.1 19.9 49.9 20.4 54.0 19.9 20.1
State Average 19.2 55.8 19.4 43.7 20.3 53.2 19.9 19.8

The Power Hour program is teacher-led and teachers work together to analyze curriculum, instruction and assessments given during the hour.

Another recent change is requiring most teachers to give midterms and finals.

“It gives teachers a focus,” he said.

Administrators write the exams using ACT-type questions and teachers assist by creating a bank of questions.

Afterward, teachers from each subject meet to discuss how their students did and what to do better.

“They want to know what kids are learning or not learning,” he said.

The school also gives an ACT practice test to sophomores and juniors and then discuss results with students. Near the test dates, John Hardin offers ACT tutoring.

Ultimately, these strategies come down to good instruction, Wells said.

“A big part of what happened with the seniors is our John Hardin staff,” he said.

Stacey Moore, an English teacher at the school, said her department started using NoRedInk, a program that helps student learn grammar concepts. Students can progress through the program at their own pace.

“It really helped ACT scores and we use that in conjunction with ACT strategies,” she said.

John Hardin students scored a 21.4 on the Eng­lish test, which is a school high. About 70 percent of students met the benchmark score for that test. The English portion tests students on punctuation, usage, commonly confused words and other grammar concepts.

For the district, about 61 percent of students met the English benchmark and about 56 percent in the state met it.

Moore said the program has made an impact because it helps students really learn a concept, so they can apply it better.

“The goal is for them to know how to apply it and, after they leave, know where a comma goes,” she said.

Moore said the different assignments in class and practice tests make students more comfortable with the exam and, thus, more successful.

“I think they feel more confident when they go into the test,” she said. “We take the scariness away.”

Katherine Knott can be reached at 270-505-1747 or kknott@thenewsenterprise.com.

(1) comment

MarthaSipe

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