Mt. Pleasant School District's ACT scores reach a new high
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
The results are in, and they have Mt. Pleasant Community School District officials beaming.
During Monday night’s regular meeting of the school board, high school Principal Todd Liechty briefed directors on school ACT scores from last year.
Mt. Pleasant students recorded the highest scores in recent memory on the college-testing exam, earning a composite of 23.3, which was well above the state average of 22.1. That compares with a composite average of 22.6 last year.
“The students did very well,” Liechty said. “I am really happy with our seniors. “This is the highest composite score since I have been here and also some of the highest scores since I’ve been here.”
A total of 87 students (of 145 eligible students) took the test.
School board member Lyle Murray asked why more students didn’t take the test. Liechty said the test is not needed for community college admission (the Compass test is taken) or for enlistment in the military.
Mt. Pleasant’s score in each of the four areas, followed by the state average, included: English — 22.1, 21.5; math — 23.2, 21.6; reading — 23.6, 22.5; science — 23.7, 22.2.
In college readiness, 84 percent of the test takers showed college English composition readiness; 67 percent for college algebra; 56 percent for college social science and 59 percent for biology. Thirty-seven percent (compared to the state average of 32 percent) met all four benchmarks.
Mt. Pleasant’s ACT composite average for 2009 was 22.2, 2010 was 22.6, and 2011 figured at 22.1.
Advanced Placement (AP) scores were equally impressive.
Eighteen students took one or more AP courses last year and 32 took final exams (students do not have to take the final exam, but if they don’t, they won’t receive credit). Of the 32 exam scores, 22 were a 3 or above (students must earn at least a three on a scale of 1-5 to receive course credit). A dozen of the exams scored a 3, six tallied a 4 and four exams netted a 5.
English language and composition was the most popular course, followed by calculus and chemistry.
Liechty said a high school freshman last year scored a 3 on the biology exam after having taken just general biology in high school. The same student had a 4 on the English language and composition test.
Board member Melody Yaley said she wished more students would take the exam. “I think cost is the detriment to taking the test,” Yaley noted.
Liechty said that was definitely true. The exam costs $87 whereas the course is free. “If we (the school district) were to pay for it, we would have to see who really wants to take the test and who is taking it because we are paying for it.”
He said he has high hopes for students this year on AP tests. “I have a group of juniors taking AP literature and I would be disappointed if they scored below a 3 because they are honors (program) students.”
Statistics, however, show more Mt. Pleasant students took AP exams last year than in the past. Only 12 exams were given in 2012, 13 in 2011, 28 in 2010 and 15 in 2009. The number of AP students at the high school, though, has fluctuated. Last year’s 18 students rivaled 2010 as the highest number of students taking the classes. A dozen students took AP classes in 2012, 13 in 2011 and 10 in 2009.
Superintendent of Schools Mike Wells discussed with the board the creation of a marine biology program at the high school. Although the board expressed interest in the program, they had reservations about the $20,000 program cost borne by the district. The proposal was just an informational item and no board vote was conducted on offering the course.
“We are looking at vocational agriculture as well,” began board member Lyle Murray. “I like this program, but would like to see where we are with the money. I would like to wait a little bit to see where we’re at (financially).”
Michelle Skubal agreed. “It sounds like a great program,” she noted. “We have so many new things coming up, I would like to see some stability.”
In pitching the program, Wells said the district’s expense for substitute teachers is down 24 percent from last year and if that trend continues, the district could save $97,000 in expenses. Last year, the district’s substitute teacher pay was $388,000.
He said another possible funding source was the $243,000 in one-time state funding the district will receive the current school year.
As presented, the course would be for one quarter on Saturdays for seven hours. “The marine biology program is a ‘hook’ program and will consist of some students who may not be successful in our current educational model,” the superintendent said.
Components of the course are classroom learning, pool skills training, open water certification, marine biology and underwater photography. Upon completion of the course, students would obtain a lifetime National Association of Underwater Instructors scuba diver certification.
Wells has implemented the course at some of his other posts and said it has been highly successful. “We never have had any injuries or mishaps. Most of the kids pass and we keep working with the kids who don’t get it,” he said.
Students would have to be a minimum of 12 years old to be eligible for participation. He said that 40-60 students could take the course annually.
In the reorganizational meeting following the regular meeting, Brad Holtkamp and Lonny Morrow were re-elected board president and vice president, respectively. Re-elected board members Holtkamp, Regina Erickson and Murray also were administered the oath of office.
Mt. Pleasant directors meet again in regular session Monday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. in the high school media center.