The Union County School District has a tough ACT to follow and we hope they have an even tougher one to follow next year.
The ACT is an annual test of curriculum-based and classroom-based achievement in the areas of English, mathematics, reading and science with high school seniors taking the exam graded on a 36-point scale. This year, the Union County High School seniors taking the exam achieved an average composite score of 18.8 on the test, up from 17.0 in 2010.
The increase alone is cause for celebration, but it is even more significant because it is a comeback for the district which, after three years of improvement on the ACT, saw its score fall in 2010. Even more impressive, the district not only improved on its 2010 performance, its 2011 score exceeded its previous high of 18.2.
The good news doesn’t stop there, either. Not only did the district’s overall score improve, it improved in all areas tested with English going from 15.5 to 18, mathematics from 17.7 to 18.9, reading from 16.8 to 18.2, and science from 17.6 to 19.5.
How did all this happen? How did the district go from the decline in 2010 to exceeding its previous best in 2011?
They did it by accepting the results of 2010 not as a cause for despair, but as a challenge to do better, much better. School administrators, teachers and counselors worked together to identify academic strengths and weaknesses and then worked with students to enhance the former and diminish and eliminate the latter. High expectations were established for the students and the students responded positively, taking the instruction and the counseling they received and channeling it into improved academic performance.
By doing so, a higher standard of performance on the ACT was set which seniors in 2012 will be challenged to not only meet but exceed and set an even higher standard for the seniors of 2013. That’s how it should be because the only way for there to be continuous improvement is for standards to be constantly raised and those facing them to accept, meet and exceed those standards while setting new ones for those who follow.
Just as the district took the results of 2010 as a challenge to improve its performance, it should take the results of 2011 as a challenge to continue the process of improvement that was interrupted in 2010. The hard work its administrators, teachers and counselor put into improving its 2011 performance over 2010 must not only be repeated but exceeded this year and every year. The high expectations established for students in the wake of the 2010 results must be succeeded by even higher expectation this year so that the results of 2012 will exceed those of 2011.
Impressive as they are, the results of 2011 mark only the halfway point on the road to what should be the ultimate district goal of a composite average score of 36 points. Yes, we’re talking about a perfect score. And while some may say that’s unrealistic, we say it is a goal worth pursuing and achieving because the children of Union County and their future well-being are at stake.
In the world of the 21st century, knowledge and the ability to constantly and effectively absorb and apply it are the keys to success. The information age is a fast moving one of ever rising standards of performance that must be met and then built upon in preparation for the next, even higher level of performance. Students educated in schools that constantly challenge them with higher standards of academic performance will be the best prepared to successfully meet future challenges and excel.
That’s why the tough ACT the Union County School District set for itself to follow this year should only be the beginning, and not only where the ACT exams are concerned, but throughout the entire academic process. By doing so, the district will give its students the education, the discipline and the habits of mind to constantly challenge themselves, both in school and in the workplace that will enable them to build a better future for themselves and for Union County.