MT. PLEASANT – Eleventh-grade students at North Sanpete High School participated in an “ACT boot camp” on Tuesday, March 15, to prepare the students for taking the American College Testing (ACT) standardized college admissions test. They skipped regular classes that day for the special instruction.
The standardized test has been taken nationally by students in eleventh grade since 1959 as part of a college admissions qualification process. Beginning in 2013, the ACT test began a dual-use statewide. In addition to it being part of the college admission process, the test takes the place of the Iowa Test to assess high school juniors’ proficiency levels in four categories: English, reading, math and science. Utah schools pay for one administration of the test for each eleventh grader.
“The ACT is not a knowledge test, but rather, a test of critical thinking, problem solving, reading comprehension and higher-level thinking skills that are important indicators of preparation for college and career,” says an ACT frequently-asked-questions sheet on the Utah State Board of Education website. Specifically, the test is designed to indicate whether a student has the proficiency needed to receive a “C” grade or better in first-year college general education classes.
ACT test prep manuals are available for purchase and include a pre-test for students to measure their readiness, which students previously utilized on their own time. But for the past decade, North Sanpete High School used class time to help students prepare for the test.
“Many of our students don’t attend college because they just think they can’t do it,” said State Representative Steve Eliason, who sponsored SB 175, the ACT bill, in 2013, as reported by the Deseret News. “It’s believed that many students will realize that they’re actually prepared to go to college when they see what kind of score they get.”
North Sanpete High School is working with Mastery Prep, a group based in Louisiana, to teach students test-taking strategies for the ACT. The group will discuss how many correct answers are needed for a desired score and offer a five-minute lesson on how to “guess twice as effectively,” according to Mastery Prep’s website.
Sophomores and seniors proceeded with their normal schedule at the school during the boot camp for the juniors, which was held in the school’s auditorium throughout the day with all juniors enrolled in the school.
Heather Hafen, who is the Gear-Up Coordinator for North Sanpete High School and who also oversees the boot camp, says that each boot camp provides improvement in the students’ test scores. “We’ve seen enough of an increase [in scores] over the years. That’s why we’ve continued to do it.”
In her role as the Gear-Up Coordinator, Hafen works with eleventh graders and prepares them for the next step in their chosen career path. She also arranges college campus tours at different schools so students can get familiar with the college atmosphere.
Speaking about the boot camp program, Hafen said that she loves working with her fellow faculty at the school.
“Our teachers are amazing, and they do so much in the classroom to help our students,” she said. “Our counselors are fantastic, as well, in supporting the students. It takes the whole school to help them be successful in partnering with parents and providing [students] opportunities to see what’s out there.”