Waukesha's public schools slip a bit, CMH doesn't in ACT test scores

Published on: 8/29/2014

When it comes to ACT scores, the drive to 25 continues for Superintendent Todd Gray and the Waukesha School District, while Catholic Memorial has already surpassed that level.

Since coming to the district in 2008, Gray's goal has been to have the average ACT score increase to 25 for the college-prep test that includes English, math, reading and science.

The district, however, went in the wrong direction this past school year with an average composite score of 22.4, its lowest mark over the last five years. Its average score last year was 22.7.

It had an average score of 23.0 in 2009-10 but has dropped into the 22s over the last four years. The highest score possible on the test is 36.

Increased participation

Gray has said incorporating reading into all of the subject areas is a prime focus for the school district as it looks at improving standardized test scores.

Reading was the district's second highest average score at 22.7, but if the ACT tests are an indication as to the progress for high-school level students, more work is needed.

According to data provided by the Department of Public Instruction, the district's reading score equates to 52.8 percent in the "college ready" field — a drop from the 65.9 percent that were labeled in "the college ready" field five years ago.

Across the state, however, only about 50.2 percent of students are "college ready," a drop from 58.8 percent in 2009-10.

All three of the Waukesha public high schools saw drops in their average overall scores, but all had increased participating rates. As a whole, the district had 57.8 percent participation, a gradual increase over the last five years.

Waukesha West had the highest score at 23.2, with an 80.7 percent participation rate; North, 22.4 with a 66.2 participation rate; and South, 21.3 with an 82.3 percent participation rate.

South's average ACT score continued its steady decline in recent years. It had an average score of 22.7 in 2009-10 but has seen its score drop each year.

The percentage of students that are taking the test, however, has increased over that same period by almost 20 percent.

Both West and North have seen about a 10 percent increase in participation over the same period.

State comparisons

Gray took little consolation in the fact that Waukesha had a higher average score than the state (22.2, a mark that was second highest in the country) and national mark (21.0).

The district scored slightly above the state average on all four of the subjects tested.

West scored more than a point higher than the state average on all four of the subjects tested, with math and science its highest scores at 23.3. However, those scores were also both drops from last year.

North had higher than the state average in three of the four subjects tested with math just slightly below the state mark.

South was below the state average on all four of the subjects tested with English the lowest at 20.6.

"Although we have again exceeded the state average, we were disappointed by the slight drop in our district average score," Gray said.

However, Gray was more than pleased that the Waukesha Engineering Preparatory Academy, a charter school within the district, scored the highest average ACT score in the state at 27.1. Nine students were tested there.

CMH scores high

Catholic Memorial's composite ACT score, meanwhile, jumped from 24.6 in 2012-13 to 25.8 in 2013-14. CMH students averaged above a 25 in all of the subjects tested.

All CMH students take either the SAT or ACT tests, and all segments of students received an increase in composite scores, according to a news release from the school.

CMH's average score for its top 80 percent increased to 27.2, according to the release. The release also indicated that the average score for students who might not otherwise take the ACT was 20.3, a 2.6-point gain in three years.

"This accomplishment is an indicator of the exceptional efforts of our students, parents, faculty and staff," said CMH principal Robert Hall. "Over the past five years, our community has continued to intensify our efforts in helping all students grow academically and spiritually."