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Superintendent Defends Slight ACT Dip at Annual Meeting

Conrad Farner said as more Greenfield students take the test than ever before, a dip in the overall aggregate score is natural.

Superintendent Defends Slight ACT Dip at Annual Meeting

With more students taking the ACT than ever before, it’s only natural for the district’s aggregate test scores to be slightly down compared to last year.

Greenfield School District Superintendent Conrad Farner delivered that message to fewer than 30 citizens and about a dozen school officials and administrators at the district’s annual meeting in the Monday.

Farner’s comments came less than three weeks after the state’s Department of Public Instruction released the 2011-12 ACT data, data that showed Greenfield’s from 21.1 to 20.9, as reported by Greenfield Patch on Aug. 22.

“I never get excited about one year of data,” Farner said. “To go from 21.1 to 20.9 in one year, we’re not going to get excited about that, especially when you look at the previous two years we saw increases over that baseline data as we were increasing the number of students who were taking the tests.”

In 2011, 185 Greenfield students took the ACT, or 73.1 percent of all juniors, a mark higher than the state average of 71 percent and one of the highest marks, if not the highest, in school history (DPI data only dates back to 1995-96).

Farner said that, coupled with the fact that only 20 percent of Greenfield’s students go on to four-year colleges or universities, is a large reason for the dip.

“That’s almost unheard of that you have that many students taking the ACT when such a low percentage of the students go on to a four-year university or college,” he said.

“Every high school in the area, you have your students who are in your top 10, 20 percent, really high GPAs, really engaged. They’re at school every day. They’re working hard. They get the homework done. When those students take the ACT, they tend to do pretty well.

“Then you’ve got a whole other three quarters of the population that isn’t necessarily that engaged in school, isn’t necessarily working their tails off, getting the best grades they can get, getting high GPAs, mastering the material. The more of those students that take the ACT, generally, their aggregate scores are going to be deflated a little bit. That’s exactly what you see happening here.”

Farner said the district makes a concerted effort to have more students take the test annually and that Greenfield students take similar tests as both ninth- and 10th-graders and by the time they are juniors they are used to taking standardized tests like the ACT, which has led to an increase in participation.

He said until the state requires all students to take the test, comparisons between districts should not be made.

“Some of the schools in the area, where there’s been some positive press that their ACT scores have jumped, you need to check how many kids are actually taking it,” Farner said. “There are some cases where some of the schools have the smallest number of kids actually taking the test.

“When I read some of the reports in the media I always have to shake my head a little bit and wish there were more thorough explanation of what’s going on.”

Farner also used his address to highlight other district achievements from recent months:

  • 2011 seniors were granted more than $2.1 million in scholarships;
  • the high school’s National Honor Society’s Holiday Sharing program was once again a success as students gathered and donated thousands of clothing items, hundreds of toys and truck-loads of food to area charities and hospitals;
  • the district’s Junior Air Force ROTC program, one of few like it in the state, is thriving;
  • and the district once again held the Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society at the high school track in August.

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