Purdy finding success with ACT Saturdays

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Nearly half of juniors, seniors, participate in preparatory program

Over the last two years, the Purdy school district has taken its students’ ACT scores seriously, and developed a plan to help its students succeed.

Derek Banwart, Purdy secondary principal, said the development of ACT Saturdays was a big push when he arrived.

“At that time, the scores weren’t great,” he said. “Part of that was due to a lack in focus, but also, the state said that all juniors had to take the ACT, which also pushed down the scores.”

When the ACT Saturdays were first introduced, Purdy was falling below the state average on test scores by a couple of points.

“I spoke with other schools and sent two teachers to an ACT focus course,” he said. “There, they trained on ACT test-taking skills based on the material on the actual test.”

The 2017-2018 school year had ACT test scores 2.4 points below the state average, which is 20.8.

“The following year, in 2018-2019, we were able to raise those scores to 19.8, just one point below the state average,” Banwart said. “We have seen great strides in the last couple of years and we hope to see that continue.”

Banwart said the positive influence in the students has been seen by teachers who are promoting the ACT more.

“Because we pay for the test for the students who come to the ACT Saturdays, they see that we put more value in the test, and it has been a positive experience,” he said.

Jennifer Cornelius, Purdy’s secondary math teacher, said the first Saturday is a practice field test that is given to the students with no instruction.

“It is difficult, and the scores are low,” she said. “But, over the next two weeks, we break down the math, science, English and reading parts of the test for each student so they are working on what will help them the most.”

Cornelius said this helps keep the students interested because they see the exact needs that will increase their scores.

Banwart said the first week gives the instructors an idea on what each student needs as well.

“We have 31 students signed up this year,” he said. “That is consistent with last year.”

There is more focus on the juniors and seniors, but sophomores can come in as well.

“We are very selective on the sophomores we allow because they don’t have the class content they need in their toolbox yet,” he said. “The junior and senior class consists of 75 students, so to have close to half of them in this program is impressive.”

Banwart said eventually, he would be interested in expanding the operation in a way to involve more students, but that is still in conversation stage.

“A couple of the junior and senior math classes shut down normal classroom teaching leading up to the ACT to add more focus to testing skills,” Cornelius said. “We are seeing more juniors in the program now because the seniors took it the year before and got good scores.”

The ACT costs $50 to take, and a student can take the test 12 times.

“As long as the student is in the course and is hitting the required attendance, the school will pay for the test,” Banwart said.

The second ACT prep course instructor is Purdy’s upper level English teacher, Kayla Branstetter, who coaches the reading and English sections.

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