Whitnall, West Allis and Greenfield school districts have mixed ACT results

Published on: 9/17/2013

The composite score of Whitnall High School students exceeded the state average of all students taking the 2013 ACT college entrance exams while Greenfield and West Allis finished about a point below the state ACT average of 22.3.

In the critical areas of reading, math and science Whitnall was again above the state average, joined by Nathan Hale High School in West Allis in reading and science.


Tony Brazouski, executive director of academic achievement in the Whitnall schools, said he was happy to see the high scores with so many students taking the ACTs. Often, scores go down when participation goes up.

Regardless, Brazouski applauded the state's efforts toward having all students take the ACT, regardless of whether they are college-bound.

"The cool thing is we have been waiting for a high school state test that would be meaningful," he said, noting that the ACT could be accepted by MATC or by colleges.

Brazouski said the growth in science over the last eight years mirrors district efforts in that area.

Beyond that, Whitnall continues to work reading and writing into every subject, he said.


In the Greenfield School District where Lisa Elliott was brought in as superintendent only this summer, school officials now have three years of ACT data to analyze from not only the actual tests but the two tests that are ACT precursors.

For three years, all freshmen have taken the Explore test, which mirrors the ACT, and all sophomores have taken the Plan ACT, a predictor of ACT scores, Elliott said.

"We're just beginning now to get that trend data and will spend time looking at that data over the course of the year," Elliott said.

To work with whatever strategy that emerges from that study, the district is already moving ahead on several fronts to strengthen teaching from kindergarten onward with an eye on better ACT performance, Elliott said.

In math for example, this year, the schools are fully implementing a math investigative program for kindergarten through fifth grade. It helps students be problem-solvers and think mathematically, she said.

For students in grades 6 to 8, the schools are fully implementing another math program called Big Ideas Math, which also focuses on a deep understanding of math concepts, she said.

To boost reading and writing, the schools are focusing more on teaching the types of writing students will need in the workplace and college such as opinion, argument and informational writing, she said.

There also is more emphasis on the Creating Independence through Student-Owned Strategies, which teaches students in every grade how to get the most out of a reading assignment, Elliott said.

Finally, there is a more formal reliance on professional learning communities, an approach that enables teachers to share data and instructional strategies.

"All our teachers have a lot to bring to the table, and when you start sharing with each other ... it can't help but improve student learning," Elliott said.

West Allis

The West Allis composite score actually rose a bit from 2012 due to Hale's better composite score — an increases achieved despite significantly more Hale students (57.3 percent in 2012 to 65.5 percent in 2013) taking the ACT.

"We want to be at least at the state average, but we're not there right now and we are making efforts toward that," said Johnna Noll, director of curriculum and instruction.

For the second year, West Allis seventh- and eighth-graders take the Explore precursor test, which reveals whether individual students are on track for college readiness. If they are falling short, teachers and guidance counselors can get them special help in the form of appropriate interventions, Noll said.

A similar approach is being taken for freshmen and sophomores, who for a second year will take the Plan ACT test, Noll said. If not, the schools can give special help and steer students toward courses that will shore up any deficiencies, she said.

Finally, juniors are taking ACT practice tests to familiarize them with the testing situation and to let them practice test-taking skills, Noll said. Last year, they took the practice test in spring. This year they will take it earlier so that they not only get the experience, but have time to work on any areas where they fall short of the ACT benchmarks.

In addition to the testing, homeroom and some classroom teachers are asking what the schools refer to as bellringer questions — the types of questions students will get on the ACTs.


  WA-WM District Nathan Hale l West Allis Central Greenfield High  Whitnall High  State Average Milwaukee School District National Average
Average composite score 21 21.7 19.7 20.9 22.9 22 15.9 20.9
Participation 52.7% 65.5% 49.2% 71% 72.7% 61.8% 86.4% n/a
Reading score 21.5 22.3 20.1 21.4 22.7 22.1 15.9 21.1
Math score 20.5 21 19.7 20.4 22.5 21.9 16.3 20.9
Science score 21.6 22.3 20.3 20.9 23.4 22.2 16.4 20.7


  West Allis-West Milwaukee School District Nathan Hale High School West Allis Central High School Greenfield High School Whitnall High School State Average Milwaukee School District National ACT Average
Average composite score 21 21.7 19.7 20.9 22.9 22 15.9 20.9
Percent participation 52.7% 65.5% 49.2% 71% 72.7% 61.8% 86.4% n/a
Reading score 21.5 22.3 20.1 21.4 22.7 22.1 15.9 21.1
Math score 20.5 21 19.7 20.4 22.5 21.9 16.3 20.9
Science score 21.6 22.3 20.3 20.9 23.4 22.2 16.4 20.7