By Caroline Schneider
Starting next year, North Carolina schools will have a new accountability model where 30 percent of the school’s rating will be established by the juniors’ performance on a required ACT test.
This mandatory ACT test will be provided by the state for all juniors to take for free, and will start next semester, although the effects on the new accountability model will not begin until next year.
“The ACT supposedly is more aligned with the new common core essential standards, which is the new curriculum that the whole state is going to,” said Principal Chris Blice.
This model is different from the previous one in that the school’s rating will be based less on EOC exams. Although the new model is supposedly a better measure of what schools are teaching, Blice recognizes that the new system may be inadequate.
“I think there are pros and cons to everything [and] I have some pretty strong concerns,” said Blice. “The people who take the SAT are people who want to go to college and they want to do well on the SAT. Everybody is going to take the ACT… if [students not going to college] don’t have any motivation to do well, I think they have the potential to affect [our rating] badly.”
In addition to Northwood’s SAT scores going up this year, the school has also made other accomplishments over the last few years, such as being named a NC School of Distinction and becoming on of Newsweek’s Top American High Schools. Blice is worried about how the possibility of low-scoring juniors who aren’t planning on going to college would affect the students if it comes to the school getting a lower rating.
“I don’t want to throw [the school’s previous successes] away… people in the university system say of Northwood High School, ‘That’s a good school’ and that’s what I want for you guys,” Blice said.
That said, Blice is confident the school will do fine.
For the first time in Northwood’s history, this year’s SAT scores are above the state and national averages, an accomplishment that Blice is proud of.
“So in that regard, I’m under the belief that we’ll probably do pretty well on the ACT,” Blice said.
Blice has started contacting principals of schools in Michigan and Illinois, the two other states that use the same accountability model as North Carolina will.
“[I’m asking them], ‘How do you make this work?’ because I want to do it so [that] [students] are successful, [and] also do it in a way so our school can be successful,” Blice said.
One of the possible reasons for the school’s SAT success could be that the county provides SAT prep classes for students to take for free before taking the test. Now that students are going to be taking the ACT as well, Blice is looking into providing those classes too.
“Right now we are in negotiations with the people from the Princeton Review to help provide us with a program to prepare students for the ACT,” Blice said.
“We don’t want to abandon the SAT prep program for a couple of reasons. It’s been very successful for our students [and] people are still going to take the sat so we’re going to continue that.”
This could mean juniors would be doubling up on prep classes on top of their class and sports schedules.
Although Blice has concerns with the potential of students not planning on going to college, not everyone believes those students could negatively affect the school’s rating.
Freshman David Yester is already considering choosing the military over college and claims that when he becomes a junior, he wouldn’t let that decision impact how he performs on the test.
“I would still perform to my potential [because] it could benefit the school and it could benefit the students who are here and affect how they learn,” Yester said.
Junior Drew Hill believes that despite the possibility of student carelessness on the test, juniors should still perform decently.
“I think [my peers would] do well because [the test is] most of the subjects at school so it would show that we’re learning,” Hill said.
But the impact of this new model will be unknown until next year when the program comes into effect.
“It’s an awful lot of changes,” said Blice. “I think if we don’t come up with a way to make it work, it could have a very negative impact. I don’t want it to do that. I want it to be very successful for [the students], I want it to be very successful for our school.”