School board adds minimum ACT score of 15 as grad requirement

The Lincoln County School District No. 1 school board unanimously passed on third reading an amendment to the KJSHS graduation requirements at their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9.

The new policy will require Kemmerer High School students to score a minimum of 15 on the ACT in order to graduate. The policy will apply first to the Class of 2021, who are currently sophomores. Currently the district pays for students to take the ACT twice.

ACT scores range from 1 to 36 for each of the sections, and a composite ACT Score is an average of those four scores.

Nancy Banister addressed the board with concerns about the policy before it was approved, saying it may not motivate the students who refuse to work hard.

Banister works with the Gear Up Wyoming program through Western Wyoming Community College to help students improve their educational performance and prepare for opportunities after high school.

“The (ACT) test ostracizes students who do not do well with the format,” Banister said. “This requirement would just seem like more work to an already challenged student, who may just shut down.”

Banister said she thought there were other options inside the classroom to motivate students instead of requiring a score on a test she said focuses on results instead of actual learning and comprehension.

“This is a bold move,”said LCSD No.1 superintendent Teresa Chaulk. “I agree that this may not be the best way to motivate students, but it is one way to motivate them. We are held accountable by the state for our post-secondary readiness.

“We have to be willing not to accept that a student can earn As and Bs but score poorly on the ACT because they have a bad attitude,” Chaulk continued.

Students are already required by the state of Wyoming to take the ACT, although Chaulk said she thinks LCSD No. 1 would be the first district to use a minimum ACT score as a graduation requirement.

Banister said she was unaware that the district would pay for two test attempts. She said that when she works with students after their first test attempts, their scores do improve.

“It will be our job to inform these students that it’s not all or nothing,” Chaulk said. “It’s about their overall effort.”

Other board members discussed their concerns and support for the new requirement.

“The parents that I’ve talked to that are concerned about their children’s education think this is a great idea,” said board member Bob Peternal.

Brenda McGinnis said she thinks the policy will motivate students who are capable but are just not making an effort, but she worries about  quiet students whose testing anxiety goes unnoticed.

“This places a lot of pressure on that test, so do we know that we have the relationships with those students to recognize if they have the ability but also have that anxiety?” McGinnis asked.

Chaulk said she was confident in the teachers’ and counselors’ ability to help those students who feel the pressure of this new requirement.

“Yes, we do know our students that well,” Chaulk said. “It’s a big responsibility.”

“A lot of this discussion is about the outliers,” said board chairman Don Lamborn, “And we will always be concerned about those students, but the culture of ‘education doesn’t matter’ needs to change.”

Chaulk and the board members agreed that encouraging students to take practice tests earlier would help them obtain that minimum score of 15 and do better each time they take the test.

A detailed process for students who do not meet the required ACT score and wish to appeal the requirement to graduate will be presented to the board in April.

The next LCSD No. 1 school board meeting will be on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 7:00 p.m. at the Administration building on Adaville Drive in Diamondville. 

Meeting agendas are printed in the Gazette the Thursday before each meeting or can be obtained at the district office.