"We were seeing a trend that the scores were starting to go down, and this year scores were above and it was a pleasant surprise to all of us in the district," noted Dr. Stephanie Reddick, Sikeston R-6 curriclum director and assistant superintendent of middle grades.
Generally Sikeston scores above the national average, but last year the school was below both the national and state averages in the ACT Assessment average, Reddick noted.
This year Sikeston's composite ACT score was 22.0 compared to the state average of 21.5 and the national average of 20.9. Last year Sikeston's average was 20.4 compared to the state's average of 21.4 and the national average of 20.8.
"You can see they (high school students) can perform well, but they have to have the motivation to want to perform well. And there's an incentive with the ACT," Reddick pointed out.
Students must to perform well on the ACT because it can determine whether or not they get into the college of their choice.
This year's results reflect the scores of Sikeston's 145 seniors who took the test last spring.
Sikeston R-6 Board of Education President Greg Colwick said he is very pleased with the school's ACT Assessment results.
"For the last two years, our staff has been working hard in trying to get our scores increased, and I think the prep courses we have provided in the English department have done a wonderful job," Colwick said. "By the efforts put in, they've paid some dividends for us."
Dr. R. Larry Bohannon, assistant superintendent of secondary grades and professional development, noted teachers receive training to help better prepare students for the ACT Assessment.
"Teachers have always embedded ACT in their curriculum but in the past two years, teachers have attended workshops on programs that offer techniques to increase ACT scores to use with their students," Bohannon said.
Sally Lape, Sikeston Senior High English teacher, said Sikeston's English department focuses on the ACT throughout the year in its junior and senior English classes, especially.
"As a part of our curriculum, we cover grammar usage and mechanics, writing strategy and reading comprehension in the first quarter," Lape said. "Then we review these skills in our reading and writing with mini-lessons that we hope help students stay sharp. We also try to give ACT practice tests before ACT test times, which are in October, December, February and April."
Lape also offers an ACT review in English and reading the week before each test date. In addition, the counseling department of the high school offers "Super Saturday," which a Saturday morning set aside that mirrors the actual ACT, Lape said. Students take a practice test in a timed setting, go over their answers, and have pizza as a post-test treat.
The district also informs students of programs offered through Southeast Missouri State University to increase ACT scores, as well as the ACT Princeton Review.
New strategies implemented this year for raising ACT scores include sophomores taking the pre-ACT test called PLAN in the fall, and for the first time, elective classes during the school day are being offered for students to take to help raise their ACT scores, Reddick said.
"We have gotten some materials for teachers to teach two elective courses that focus on communications arts in a reading component and an elective course for students who may do well in communication arts, but may need assistance in math and science reasoning," Reddick explained.
Students taking this class will certainly benefit because of the daily concentration on the four parts of the test, Lape noted.
And if anything, Lape hopes students can gain confidence from the reviews, she said.
"Taking a timed test can be intimidating, and we want them to walk into the testing environment with the confidence necessary to do well. Like all tests many variables can play a part on their performance."
Students need to get a good night's sleep; they need to wake up early enough and eat breakfast so that they don't feel rushed; and they need to tell themselves that they are going to concentrate with no distractions for four hours, Lape pointed out.
Lape added she also tells the students they need to ask their parents for a little extra money so that they can go out for lunch and treat themselves for a job well done once they're finished taking the ACT.
Lape reasoned: "Four hours of solid testing is stressful, and they deserve a reward."