Glitch affects Hayden ACTs | SteamboatToday.com

Glitch affects Hayden ACTs

Students in South Routt, Steamboat test better than state average

Zach Fridell

— Hayden High School officials aren’t exactly sure what caused half of the ACT scores for the school’s juniors to be invalidated. But because of a timing error noticed by ACT administrators, the district’s composite score is an artificially low 11.3 out of 36.

Although the 15 students whose scores were invalidated were able to retake the test at the school’s expense, they were not allowed to use the test scores from the first test, even if that score was higher.

The result: an unfortunate mistake that meant some students whose scores decreased when they took the test a second time must live with the consequences.

When students take the state-required ACT test, used by colleges for admissions purposes, the test proctor records the time the test begins and ends. When ACT officials looked at the results from the school’s April test, it appeared that half of the students were given 15 minutes less than required in the reading section, which invalidated those scores. Principal Troy Zabel said he is not sure if the students were shorted time or if the proctor wrote down wrong times.

“We haven’t ever been able to totally clarify if times were written down in the book wrong from the test proctor or if they cut the kids short,” he said. “To me, it makes the most sense that they were not given enough time in (the English) section.”

Zabel declined to name the proctor in charge of the test.

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The school saw the scores from the first round of testing, and Zabel said the juniors averaged a score better than the state average of 19.4. When the 15 students whose scores were invalidated took the test a second time, scores changed by a maximum of two points, up and down.

The school was not issued a composite score for the second round of tests.

School counselor Michelle Henderson said she disagreed with the decision to invalidate all the test scores, especially the scores that went down.

“That doesn’t seem fair,” she said. “If we had given them longer, I would have understood.”

Zabel said he had long discussions with ACT officials to try to avoid the invalidation of the tests, but because the scores are averaged with all other scores across the county, test administrators said they could not add in Hayden’s first round of scores. Zabel said he tried to keep the scores because he did not want students to have to use lower scores after the second test.

“It devastates me, not on how it reflects on us, but for the kids who can’t use those scores for going on to college,” he said. “We tried to do everything we could do to not have the scores invalidated. But I understand where they have to come from.”

The school paid the registration fee for the second round of student tests, amounting to about $465, Henderson said.

Last year, Hayden juniors averaged an ACT score of 18.8, slightly below the state average of 19.1.

Zabel said the increase this year likely was because of a more concerted effort at the school.

“We’re getting more and more focused as a school with all the work we’ve been doing as professional learning communities,” he said. “We’re becoming a much better system at figuring all that out, and staff is much more cohesive than we’ve ever been.”

Districts increase scores

Scores also increased in the Steamboat Springs and South Routt school districts in the 2008 tests.

In Steamboat Springs, the average test score reached 21.2, an increase from 2007’s average of 20.9. South Routt saw scores move to 20.3, far above last year’s average of 17.6.

Soroco High School Principal Dennis Alt said South Routt’s increase was a validation of efforts the school has made in recent years.

“I don’t think it’s surprising. It’s satisfying. It’s kind of like, ‘Yes, what we tried to do and what we implemented and what we believe in is working,'” he said. “The key thing is instruction is research-based, and they implemented professional learning communities last year.”

Zabel said he was very pleased with the increases in Hayden’s scores, as well, but pointed out that the average scores at small high schools such as Hayden and Soroco fluctuate from year to year because of small class sizes.

“In a small school, you may have one or two students who don’t score well, and that’s why it looks like a roller coaster,” he said.

ACT scores are not used by the state to determine school funding or scores, but they are used by colleges in the admissions process. In 2008, the national average composite score was 21.1. Colorado’s individual composite score average was 20.5, ranking in the bottom quarter of states. Colorado also is one of three states – along with Illinois and Michigan – that requires students to take the test.

– To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com