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Most area schools top state ACT average

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BLOOMINGTON -- Illinois high school students lead the way in standardized test scores among the eight states that test almost all of their students, and most area school districts topped the state's average, school officials said.

Illinois' composite ACT score of 20.7 for 2010 reflects a continuation of an upward trend over the past five years, although it is slightly less than the national composite score of 21, the Illinois State Board of Education announced this week. The score does place Illinois at the top of the eight states that apply the standard college entrance test to 90 percent or more of their students.

Some school districts far exceed the state average, with Central Catholic High School in Bloomington leading the way. Principal Joy Allen reports its composite ACT score is 24.6.

Normal-based Unit 5 students had a composite ACT score of 22, which is about what they have scored in the last five years, said Sandy Wilson, Unit 5's secondary education director.

Downs-based Tri-Valley school district had an even higher score, 22.9, and Bloomington District 87 and Lexington schools did about equally well with respective scores of 21.1 and 21.2.

The Stanford-based Olympia school district was slightly under the average at 19.9. Scores there dipped slightly from last year, prompting Principal Lance Thurman "to implement several (plans) to raise student achievement," Superintendent Brad Hutchison said Thursday.

"The ACT is a benchmark that helps us when we look at preparing students for college and career readiness,'' said state school Superintendent Chris Koch in a prepared statement. "As we move forward with our newly adopted, more rigorous Illinois Learning Standards, we would expect college and career readiness to improve."

Almost all Illinois high school juniors have taken the ACT as part of the Prairie State Achievement Exam since 2001.

Illinois' composite ACT scores for the past five years have improved from 20.5 in 2006 to 20.7 in 2010. Nationally, there has been a slight dip in the composite score, from 21.1 in 2006 to 21.0 in 2010.

Some groups don't put much faith in the results of ACT tests, however.

Such tests "often reflect the impact of high-priced coaching courses and/or taking the tests multiple times, or opportunities that are only available to students from upper-income homes," said Bob Schaeffer, spokesman of The National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), in an e-mail. The group strives to end what it calls "the misuses and flaws of standardized testing" and to ensure that student, teacher and school evaluation is fair, open and valid.


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