About 40 percent Niles Township High School District 219’s class of 2016 will start high school behind, according to the results of the Explore test given to all eighth graders at the district’s sender schools last November.
That’s in line with the numbers of students who have been entering the district without meeting benchmarks for high-school readiness in recent years, said Anne Roloff, assistant superintendent if curriculum and instruction.
Roloff reported on the test results at a recent school board meeting.
Kids take a number of tests
The benchmarks are set by ACT, which produces a series of tests given by District 219. The series starts with the Explore test, given to incoming eighth-graders, and culminates with the ACT college entrance exam, which is given to all juniors as part of the Prairie State Achievement Exam.
ACT calculates its college entrance exam scores students need on its four subject exams – English, math, reading and science – to have at least a 50 percent chance of getting a B in freshman-level college courses in those subjects to determine college readiness. The company then works backwards to see what students need to get on the Explore test to make it likely that they will achieve college readiness scores, Roloff explained.
Only 60 to 79 percent of kids met benchmarks
Among next year’s freshman, 79 percent met the benchmark for English and 60 percent met the benchmark for reading.
Only 29 percent of incoming freshmen met the high-school readiness benchmark for science, but Roloff said she and other curriculum directors think ACT’s process for creating the science benchmark is flawed because it only looks at college freshmen who take biology – a group that includes mostly science majors.
44 percent not ready in math
Roloff said she was more concerned about students’ math scores, where 44 percent did not meet the benchmark for high school readiness.
District 219 Superintendent Nanciann Gatta said helping those students achieve college readiness – defined as a 22 or higher on the ACT college entrance exam – was the main reason the district eliminated basic-level math classes for freshmen this year.
Kids will still take higher-level math in high school
The district’s own records show that only 6 percent of the students in basic-level math classes as freshmen achieved college readiness by the end of the junior year. In fact, students who got Ds in regular algebra were more likely to make it to college readiness than students who got As in basic math, according to information provided by the math department directors at and .
Students who normally would have been enrolled in a lower-level course do get a second period of math to get extra support to make it easier for them to catch up, said Bob Williams, the math department director at Niles West.
A few more than 10 percent of those students failed the first semester, but about half of those have since received credit by demonstrating mastery of the necessary material, said Niles North math department director David Wartowski.
Gatta said she expects to see many more students make the college readiness benchmark when this year’s freshmen take the ACT in the spring of their junior year.
“That’s when we’ll see the payoff,” she said.