7th-graders earn high ACT scores

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Dylan Berndt, Jayden Bowman and Cole O'Neill are seventh-graders at Cassville Middle School who achieved something a typical seventh-grader would not expect.

The trio earned high scores on the ACT, an exam that high school students normally take to determine their readiness for college. Berndt scored a 24, Bowman a 21 and O'Neill a 21.

This month, the students received medals of academic achievement from Duke University for the high test scores as

seventh-graders, and excellence in the university's Talent Identification Program (TIP).

Duke University invites seventh graders who achieve high MAP test scores to participate in the program. To be recognized, students must achieve a score of 21 on any of the four categories of math, reading, English and science.

The program helps participants identify academic strengths, develop abilities, interests at a time when they are in the process of forming their identities and determining their future path. The program also helps assist families in determining how advanced their students' academic abilities are, and what level of educational challenge is appropriate. Taking the test also gives students a preview of what a college entrance exam is like.

According to the Duke TIP 2015-2016 score results summary, the scores put the students, who have not even had the upper-level courses that high school-aged students have before taking the exam, in the top 5-8 percent, nationally, of 65,000 seventh-graders who participated.

"I think that's pretty special," said Jimmie Barton, Cassville Middle School principal. "It's definitely an amazing talent, and I'm proud that we have the opportunity for [these students] to go through our school."

Each year, Duke TIP hosts a state recognition ceremony in each of the states with the largest talent search enrollments to honor students in the seventh grade talent search who meet the state-level qualifying score criteria.

At the ceremony, which took place at Drury University in Springfield, the boys were called on stage to receive a commemorative medal.

Berndt achieved a composite score of 24 on the ACT, and a science score of 25. His favorite hobbies are soccer, playing saxophone, Legos, computer and video games, and anything science related. He is the son of Kurt and Lacy Berndt of Cassville.

O'Neill's composite score was 20, with a high score of 26 on the reading category of the exam. His hobbies include reading, baseball and cross country. He is the son of Jake and Jennifer O'Neill.

His mother said that out of 2,600 seventh-grade students in the state who qualified, 1,100 were recognized.

"Having three from Cassville out of all of those was a pretty good number and is a good accomplishment, I think," she said.

Jayden Bowman had a composite score of 21. He loves to read, draw, play baseball and learn new things. He is the son of Amie Slane and Dan Bowman.

"Jayden is always teaching himself how to do things," Slane said.

"Some research we did found the average high school senior achieves a 21 composite score," said Kurt Berndt. "Much of the ACT material these kids have never been exposed to through regular educational course work.

"Dylan has a passion for learning science, mechanical, and engineering topics. He and his older brother and younger sister are all very big readers. Their mother fostered a love of reading in all of them from early ages. It's not uncommon for them to be reading with a small light when they're supposed to be in bed sleeping."

The average composite score of all participants was 18.

Parents expressed pride and amazement at their children's accomplishments.

"What's amazing is just to be a part of the program, you have to be in the top five percent on state test scores, and then to achieve scores in the top five percent of that group on a national level floored us," Berndt said.

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