Douglas test results exceed state levels | RecordCourier.com

Douglas test results exceed state levels

There is still room for improvement, when looking over ACT test scores turned in by Douglas County high school juniors this past spring.

At the same time, Douglas County School District Superintendent Teri White and Douglas High School Principal Marty Swisher believe the performance represented a good start for the first time since the program was implemented for Nevada public schools.

"Our percent of career and college ready students far exceed the state averages in most subjects, but clearly leave room for improvement," White observed this week. "That is not all bad since students have one more year to develop their career and college readiness skills and have an opportunity to take the test again to improve their scores for college entry."

She went on to add this is a new assessment given to juniors, and historically, it has been perceived as a college entrance examination only offered to those who may have been college bound.

"We are hoping to better discuss the purposes of this assessment with students to help those who are not college bound understand that this test informs our practices and instruction in courses that lead to careers," White noted. "If students, who are career-bound directly out of high school, see the test as a measure our schools might use to improve instruction, it may help us to better prepare students to enter the work force directly from high school."

When Swisher addressed school board trustees at their meeting earlier this month, he spoke in reference to a newspaper article that reported only eight percent of Nevada juniors were ready for college.

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"I saw an article that basically said Nevada had one of the lowest overall test results (nationwide), so I wanted to show that our test results for juniors are actually pretty good," Swisher said on Tuesday. "I wouldn't say they are stellar, but it was a lot better than the state averages."

Among the highlights, he pointed out that 49 percent of Douglas High students achieved college readiness. The state average was 35 percent, he added.

"That means about half of our kids already have the high probability of being able to be successful in English 101 and 102, and they haven't even taken their senior year of English yet from high school," Swisher said. "So I think that's very, very commendable.

"When you look at science, the hardest indicator on the ACT is the preparation for biology," he added. "The standards are very high … you have to have a score of 23 and 27 percent of our students would, with a pretty high degree of success, be able to take college level biology and be successful. Again, the state's average was 16 percent, so those are things we ought to celebrate."

Swisher pointed out that a "high percentage" of Douglas High's 429 juniors participated in the ACT testing in the spring.

"There were some students that probably didn't take it seriously, but most of the kids I talked to, they gave it a good effort the day that they took it," he said. "So I think the results are pretty encouraging and our next step is to break it down with individual students and look at the subpopulations because that's where we want to be able to make improvements for individual students … and we'll be focusing on that in October."

This helps the school better prepare them for their senior year, White and Swisher explained.

"The ACT test has set readiness standards designed into the assessment, which provide us with information about a student's current set of skills as a predictor to their readiness for college, a career, or to enter the work force directly," White noted. "This is our first set of data and it provides us with a great place to begin discussions about how to improve our course offerings and programming."

Swisher echoed that.

"That's the goal, I think, across the state of doing this," he said. "You can use this to help students prepare for whatever their post-high school goals are going to be. You get good information on how we help those kids better plan for the next step after high school."

Swisher is a 1981 graduate of George Whittell High School and his father, Jim Swisher formerly served as a school board trustee, so if his view is a little biased, he has a vested interest in the community where he grew up and now works.

"It just kind of confirms what I've known all the way along, that our students get a very good education in Douglas County," he said. "And it's not just the high schools, it's the middle schools and elementary schools, all the way through."