DELAVAN — Academic success at Delavan-Darien High School is on the rise and, “this is only the beginning,” Principal Mark Schmitt said after learning that the school did better than the state average for composite ACT scores for the first time in nearly 20 years.
According to Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction records dating back to 1995-96, the 2012-13 DDHS ACT test takers are the only group to have posted a better average than the state. The DDHS average of 22.2 was one-tenth of a point higher than the state average of 22.1.
“I am extremely proud of the efforts of students and staff related to all of the improvements we’ve seen in this district lately, including this news of our improving and above-average ACT scores,” Superintendent Robert Crist said.
Not only was the district’s composite score above the state average, but DDHS also posted its second best year-to-year ACT score gain just a year after posting its best year-to-year gain. This year, the 86 test-takers improved the school’s average by 0.94 points. The 113 test takers in 2011-12 improved on the 2010-11 scores by 1.04 points (composite scores of 21.26 vs. 20.21, respectively). The maximum score on the ACT is 36.
The nearly two-point jump in the average over two years is a strong indicator that shows the district is moving in the right direction when it comes to improving students’ academic achievement, Schmitt said.
Prior to this past school year, the closest DDHS students ever came to meeting or exceeding the state average was in 2006-07, when the average DDHS score was -0.45 behind the state, according to DPI data.
“Seeing these results truly excites me, because it shows that this is only the beginning of great things for our students and our school,” Schmitt said. “We didn’t exceed the state average by much, and we’ve got a long way to go, but this is certainly positive news for our school district community. Our students, parents and staff should be proud of their efforts, as am I.”
Compared to 463 high schools in the state where the ACT was taken, DDHS finished No. 204 in composite score ranking, or in the top 44.1 percent of all schools, according to DPI data.
Broken down by testing subject area, DDHS was in the top 33.7 percent for reading (score of 22.78), 35.4 percent for science (22.7), 40.4 percent for English (21.52) and 60.1 percent for math (21.53).
The DDHS average of 22.2 fared well among Walworth County Schools, as well.
Williams Bay, the county’s smallest public high school, topped county scores with an average of 24.6. Whitewater had a score of 22.7, while Badger High in Lake Geneva was at 22.58. East Troy followed at 22.57. DDHS was in the middle of the pack and was followed by Elkhorn, 22.1, and Big Foot, 21.6.
The increasing scores at DDHS should hopefully give pause to students and parents living in the district who are considering open enrolling elsewhere, said Mike Heine, coordinator of school/community relations.
“Many families that exercise their school choice options do so because of a perception that our schools deliver sub-standard education,” Heine said. “Although this is just one of many data points we can analyze, our above-average ACT scores, and our increasing scores of the past two years, should tell our community that our students can achieve in our schools and that our teachers deliver quality lessons in an ever-improving educational environment.
“With continued improvements to our curriculum and teaching methods, and with innovative new programs being added, we hope to continue to see annual gains in our student achievement scores on universal benchmarks such as the ACT.”
Schmitt attributes the recent improvement to the way staff collaborates and is responsive data to meet the needs of all students.
Some of the things the school has done includes developing a Freshman House to focus on the needs of the entire freshman class; implementing new behavior and character programs; partnering with UW-Whitewater for tutoring and pre-college programs; bringing Authentic Intellectual Work into the classroom that teaches engaging content to the students; growing enrollment in high-level and Advanced Placement courses and more.
DDHS has also set records the past few years for the number Advanced Placement exams taken each year, and DDHS has seen an uptick in the graduation rate, which has exceeded the state for graduating students on time.