Of particular interest to parents of high school students should be the ACT. While the test is still months away, our students' performance on it has more serious implications for our school and our students than the state standardized tests we tend to hold in much lower esteem.
One may dismiss the ACT and the College Board as subsidiaries of the Common Core regime, and lament the fact that our students are the forced consumers and guinea pigs of a multi-billion dollar testing industry informed more by psychometricians and statisticians than content experts. One may dismiss and lament in vain, because the colleges to which our students will invariably apply will weigh our students' performance on this test as heavily as they will their combined effort in all of their high school courses. The letters of recommendation, athletic achievements, awards, and personal essays notwithstanding, the ACT remains an important determinant for both college admissions and scholarships for many of our students.
Students who work at an arduous curriculum within an environment that actively discourages grade inflation should have confidence that that work will be rewarded. Ridgeview offers a first-rate education with quality teachers, but it has not done all that it can to prepare its students for this test. It has declined to participate in explicit test preparation because it has held such practices to be beneath the dignity of a genuine liberal arts education. While this view holds considerable appeal, it amounts to upholding our principles at the expense of our students. Offering students training on how to prepare for the ACT is a concession to reality that serves both them and the school well.
Beginning this year, Ridgeview will contract with a private tutor to instruct our students on how best to prepare for the ACT. Students will take two diagnostic ACT exams. The first of these will take place shortly after the Christmas break. Parents and students will be informed of their performance and any areas that they need to focus on improving. Once per week, the afternoon study hall for the junior class will be reserved for ACT preparations, and these preparations will follow a curriculum prescribed by the tutor. Ridgeview will purchase books and reimburse students for the cost of two apps to supplement this curriculum. While dates are yet to be finalized, the juniors will attend an ACT "boot camp" at Ridgeview to help solidify the skills imparted through the curriculum. At this time, parents will be invited to a talk put on by the tutor and interested sophomores will be able to visit with the tutor about the PSAT. Within approximately ten days of the official ACT, students will take a second diagnostic test.
Ridgeview's most recently reported ACT scores were quite good, but there is room for improvement, and small gains on these tests often translate into thousands of dollars in financial aid. While the outline provided above does mean that juniors will sacrifice a portion of the curriculum we believe most earnestly in, it also means that that same curriculum might be allowed to better serve them in their college applications. Meetings will be held with students and faculty this week to work through the details before the administration posts a finalized schedule for the diagnostic tests, "boot camp," and other elements. We look forward to ensuring that the education we offer our students is not overlooked for want of a better ACT score.