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St. James ACT scores continue to decline

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / January 19, 1998

LUTCHER – ACT scores in St. James Parish have been steadily decliningover the past four years, and this year is no exception.

The average score in St. James Parish for the 1996-97 school year was17.2, while the year before the parish average was 17.4 and the yearbefore that the average was 17.6.

The average state score was 19.4, while the national average score was21.

“I know that the report reflects a declining score, but this is what everyparish is facing,” board member Willis Octave said. “It’s not just in St.James.”

In the River Parishes, average scores in St. John the Baptist Parish haveremained stable at 17.7 for the past three years. In St. Charles Parish overthe last three years, scores dropped then rose slightly.

The average score in St. Charles in 1994-95 was 20.1. The average droppedto 19.5 in 1995-96 and boosted slightly to 19.8 in 1996-97.

“As a staff we are looking at this very seriously,” said Caldonia Ceasar,assistant superintendent in St. James Parish.

Lutcher High students scored better than St. James High students on theACT test and were even able to improve their scores from the year before.The average at Lutcher High School is 17.8, while it was a lower 17.7 in1995-96.

Students at St. James High School scored an average of 16.5, which is adrop from the 1995-96 score of 16.9.

Ceasar said St. James Parish is working hard to prepare students for thenext ACT test Feb. 7. The parish is hiring professors from Nicholls StateUniversity to go to the two high schools to teach ACT workshops duringschool hours.

“They will work with the children on how to take the tests,” Ceasar said.”We have been doing this yearly for the past three or four years.”

“I just hope we can continue our efforts,” Octave said. “We have made abig investment, but some things are missing. I don’t know what, but weshould be reaping larger benefits.”

In addition to workshops to teach students how to do well on the ACT,teachers in St. James are informing students of careers early on andhelping them boost their self-esteem.

“Hopefully that will boost scores,” Ceasar said. “We are also asking theteachers to talk to the students about careers.”

Ceasar said the key to improving scores is to make career choices a stepladder of awareness during the students’ time in school – all the way fromkindergarten to graduation.

On an elementary level teachers are making the students aware of all ofthe different careers out there. On the junior high level teachers arerequiring students to explore many different career options. And on thehigh school level, students are faced with the big question – “What do Iwant to be when I grow up?”

Ceasar hopes all of these things combined will prove to be the medicinestudents need to get higher ACT scores.

“The only thing that bothered me was that we are constantly trying toimprove our scores,” Ceasar said. “Hopefully, this will work.”

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