Why Standardized Tests Like the ACT Matter

Why Standardized Tests Like the ACT Matter
Chris Williams, Assistant Principal for Academics

Any high school administrator or college admissions officer will tell you that a standardized test like the ACT provides an incomplete picture of a student's ability—and yet the tests are emphasized more than ever. 

This is because a correlation exists between higher ACT scores and an increased likelihood of academic success the first two years of college. A consistent, incomplete picture is more valuable to colleges than no picture at all.

At De Smet Jesuit, we see a similar connection with an incoming freshman's score on the High School Placement Test (HSPT) and his future high school grades—the standardized test serving as a better indicator even than his grade school grades. Whereas we receive applications from more than 100 area grade schools, colleges often receive tens of thousands of applicants from thousands of high schools. So long as standardized test scores continue to serve as reliable predictors of future academic success, and so long as measurable data continues to drive college admissions selection processes, standardized tests will remain an important part of the college admissions and scholarship process.

How the ACT Improves Spartan College Readiness

At De Smet Jesuit High School, we specifically focus our standardized test preparation around the ACT, as this test is designed to evaluate a student's college and career readiness skills through a published set of standards, available here: http://www.act.org/content/act/en/college-and-career-readiness/standards.html. We have aligned our curriculum to teach not just the academic content, but also these readiness skills, and we continue to evaluate and adjust as necessary. Several years ago, departments worked together to scaffold the ACT college readiness skills so that our students have mastered as many as possible before they take the ACT, and more importantly before they enter college. Faculty in-service work that began in spring 2019 was dedicated to evaluating our curriculum as it works in the block schedule and through the lens of these ACT skills.

The standardized tests administered each year at De Smet Jesuit not only help students and parents track individual progress as assessed by the ACT, but also help the school evaluate how well we are preparing our students. Evaluation of detailed score reports we receive for the entire student body led us to change our math curriculum several years ago to include an additional semester of geometry. The Class of 2019 was the first to go through our revised math curriculum, and we hope to see an increased class average score on the ACT because of this change. Such evaluations have allowed our students to consistently meet or exceed their ACT score projection from the standardized tests from their freshman year. Our most recent report available indicated that 97% of the Class of 2017 met or exceeded their projected ACT scores.

Standardized Tests at De Smet Jesuit

Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors take the EXPLORE, PLAN, and practice ACT tests, respectively. These tests help predict student academic performance, inform faculty training, dictate curriculum adjustments, and enable De Smet Jesuit to best prepare our students for future college readiness and success.

View our infographic about How Our Curriculum Improves ACT Scores and Pays Off in College.

To learn more about standardized tests at De Smet Jesuit, please contact Chris Williams, Assistant Principal for Academics. 

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