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NRHS scores highest ACT average in the area

The latest ACT results are out and teachers in New Richmond are celebrating.

New Richmond averaged a 23.8, which is a full point higher than last year's average of 22.8, and ranks them higher than all area schools - including Hudson (23.7) and River Falls (23).

Jess Ferguson, director of curriculum and instruction in New Richmond, said the district is really proud and excited.

"Their scores are awesome," she said.

On top of beating every school in the area, Ferguson said New Richmond also scored higher than Eau Claire's North High School, which averaged 21.2; Eau Claire's Memorial High School averaged 23.9.

Jeff Moberg, high school principal, said he is impressed by the recent results.

"They did a great job," he said of the 122 students who took the ACT last spring. "They obviously did a lot of work. It's very impressive."

Moberg said his teaching staff has been working with students to help with the tests and identify areas that need improvement before the ACT is taken.

For example, all sophomores and juniors are required to take the PLAN test, an ACT college readiness test. Freshmen take the EXPLORE test, a test designed to help students plan for high school courses, prepare for the ACT and choose a career direction.

"The PLAN test is similar to the ACT test and helps us identify areas we can improve on," Moberg said.

New Richmond's score is well above St. Croix Central's 21.5 and Somerset's 21. The statewide average is 22.2, a score that ranks them third in the nation behind Minnesota (22.9) and Iowa (22.3).

At St. Croix Central, the average score went up .3 to 21.5.

David Bradley, district administrator of the St. Croix Central School District, said that while Central's scores went up, the district is going to strive to get them even higher next year.

"We're pleased with the direction our scores are heading; however, they're not where we want them to be," he said. "Our teachers, administrators and board are committed to continuing to improve student learning and we have implemented a number of new initiatives that we believe will significantly improve student learning. Some of these initiatives will have immediate impact while others such as our literacy efforts at the elementary level won't show up in ACT scores for a number of years."

In Somerset, the average score fell to 21, which is a full point lower than last year's 22.

Randy Rosburg, district administrator in Somerset, said a large increase in students taking the ACT was a factor in that score.

In 2009-10, only 67 students took the ACT. That's compared to the 81 who took it in 2010-11.

"For a school our size that's a pretty big increase," Rosburg said.

As for the actual results, Rosburg said many of those students were students who decided at the last minute that they wanted to attend college.

"Because they decided that after the fact, it's likely that they didn't take the traditional preparation classes and tests," he said.

The school administration is given general information from the ACT scores and is able to go back into students' records to see whether they took all math classes or all science classes.

Rosburg said the students who didn't plan to attend college and therefore didn't take all the math or science classes are those who didn't do as well as other students.

Overall, 47,693 students -- 71 percent -- of students enrolled in public and private schools took the test, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

"Bravo to our 2011 graduates," said State Superintendent Tony Evers. "The message of using high school as preparation for college and careers is taking hold with our students. Nearly three-quarters of our kids said they took the rigorous classes recommended for college entry, up from just over half five years ago."

He added that educators and parents need the help of communities and businesses to stress the importance of taking classes to prepare for college and careers. "We want all students to graduate ready for the workforce or further education," Evers said.

"Wisconsin's ACT scores are high because Wisconsin's high-quality schools do an excellent job of preparing students for the future," said Mary Bell, a Wisconsin Rapids teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. "In these times of extreme political polarization, we need to recognize and appreciate the fact that Wisconsin has many great and talented educators shaping our students' futures."

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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