More and more states are requiring students to take the ACT in order to graduate high school. Accordingly, implementing ACT preparation within the limits of the classroom has never been more important.
1) Assessment: First Things First
The first step to improving your students’ ACT results is to assess your students. Provide your students with a full-length ACT practice test, such as our TruScore Testing and Analysis. Having a breakdown of what your students missed and what skills those questions correlate to is invaluable. Without this targeted breakdown, trying to assess where to go next can be useless. This assessment is your first step towards understanding what your students are missing on the ACT and learning what your faculty can do to help.
2) Analysis: Find the Lowest Hanging Fruit
Have your teachers go through the test results of their students. Using TruScore, teachers receive detailed reports of their students’ specific strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to find and help the lowest hanging fruit. TruScore allows teachers to see questions students should have been able to answer correctly but didn’t. Your teachers can then help struggling students by addressing the skills that need to be reinforced throughout the year.
3) Integration: Work Prep into Your Lesson Plans
Work with your teachers to include non-disruptive ways to integrate the instructional priorities which were set in the analysis phase in the classroom. Some ideas include using bell ringers or having mini-lessons planned during dead time between units. By implementing test prep courses like ACT Mastery, teachers may also be able to tweak their tests or lesson plans to include instruction on the priority skills. Be sure to mention this skill list in each departmental meeting so that teachers can report their progress and everyone will be on the same page. It’s never too early to think about ACT prep, so be sure to include freshman and sophomore teachers as well as junior and senior teachers.
4) Resources: Prep Books, Bell Ringers, and Courses—Oh My!
Many of the skills tested on the ACT go all the way back to lessons the students should have learned in 6th grade. For that reason, even if your teachers are extremely strong in their subject areas, they may lack the resources and lesson plans they need to provide remediation. It can be overly burdensome to prep students for the ACT without sufficient resources. Books, bell ringers, flashcards, online courses, and lesson plans can help. Specialized professional development on integrating ACT prep in the classroom can provide your teachers with much-needed support. These training programs can turn what your instructors perceive to be a monumental undertaking into something much more manageable.
5) Responsibility: Place Someone in Charge
Assign responsibility for outcomes. The department head or another appointed person should be responsible for his or her students’ improved proficiency in the targeted skill areas. If you allocate a resource to your students, such as an online course or after-school program, make sure an instructor is there to get students involved and encourage them to progress through the course. Even the best resources can go unused without someone driving them.
6) Remediation: Think Filling in the Gaps, Not Cramming
Good ACT preparation looks more like remediation than cramming. When you have your teachers analyze student deficiencies with programs like TruScore, you may be surprised how many fundamental skills your students are missing which are causing them to make simple mistakes on the ACT. If you do not have a remediation mechanism, you may find that you need to seriously consider implementing one to improve student ACT outcomes. If you do have a remediation system in place, consider including more of the basic ACT skills in the coursework.
7) Strategy: Get Better, Long-Lasting Results
While ACT scores can be improved on the short-term, they can be radically increased on the long-term. Principals and district administrators who adopt a strategic outlook towards improving ACT scores are more likely to see improvement. Data shows that 8th grade student outcomes are an excellent predictor of future student performance on the ACT. This means that the earlier you begin, the better your students will do. You should ensure that the courses at each grade level are of sufficient rigor in order for your students to learn the skills needed to answer corresponding ACT-level questions. For example, if your juniors are missing many Algebra I level questions, a strategic outlook would cause you to improve your Algebra I rigor, so that the junior class in three years would not suffer from the same deficiencies. By incorporating a strategic approach to ACT remediation, you assure that your juniors see short-term gains and that your high school will systemically improve to push your students to higher and higher ACT outcomes.