End-of-course exams may prepare students for ACT

Jami Bechard | Staff Writer

End-of-course exams could be preparing Mason High School students for the ACT, according to Assistant Principal Antonio Shelton. MHS is currently participating in a pilot, testing the efficiency of these exams in helping students score well on the ACT.According to Shelton, Battelle for Kids, a non-profit organization that provides new solutions for improving education in the United States, is running Ohio’s pilot for the exams, to test the efficiency of the exams in preparing students for and increasing scores on the ACT. Right now, these exams can show the teachers in what areas they are excelling or need improvement. The curriculum taught in classes should match what is included on the ACT, so these exams can show whether or not Mason teachers are covering all aspects of the curriculum students will need to know for the ACT, according to Shelton.

“[Eventually, end-of-course exams] can help show the progress that a student is making and where their dips or deficits [are],” Shelton said. “[Then, we can we can figure out] how to fix those deficits for the kid, because the teacher gets back a printout of all of the strengths, weaknesses, points that are necessary for growth and how they can help [students].”

These exams could help teachers and students in the English, Math and Science Departments, according to Shelton, as exams are being taken in all of the second sections of English I, II and III, Algebra I and II, Pre-Calculus, Geometry, Biology and Chemistry courses. According to Shelton, end-of-course exams will not appear in social studies courses, because it is not a subject that is emphasized in global business.

End-of-course exams could phase out if they result in improved ACT scores: if Ohio schools see an increase in scores, the state might alter its curriculum to match an ACT-sponsored set of standards (the Quality Core standards), according to Shelton. The Quality Core standards are the national standards and curriculum that go with the information found within the ACT and tests like the end-of-course exams and the EXPLORE and PLAN tests which are supposed to test students over the Quality Core curriculum; the end-of-course exams are a part of the Quality Core curriculum like the OGT is a part of the Ohio curriculum.

Shelton said that teaching the Quality Core curriculum makes more sense since it coincides with the ACT, which helps students attend college. The OGT, he said, only helps students graduate high school. Because of this, the OGT could be eliminated in the next four years.

“The state is considering, in the next four years, phasing out the OGT and replacing it with [end-of-course exams],” Shelton said. “[This] makes sense, because [end-of-course exams help you prepare for the ACT], which helps you go to college, whereas, [the] OGT doesn’t.”

But, switching curriculums requires a lot of effort and is expensive, Shelton said.

“Some of [the Quality Core] standards are covered in the Ohio Department of Education curriculum, but not all of them,” Shelton said. “Yet, [Mason is] still excelling. We don’t want to transition and do the Quality Core standards right now, because if we go by national standards, or Quality Core standards, and the state decides that’s not the route we’re going to go, then we would be wasting money.”

Biology teacher Maggie Long agrees that the end-of-course of exams can help her improve as well as her students.

“It helps me as a pacing guide of where I need to be to ensure that [students] are successful on the end-of-course exam,” Long said. “I will look back at some of the questions and dissect the questions to see what types of things they are asking so that I can incorporate that into the classroom to help [students] better answer questions.”

Shelton said that with teachers able to reflect on their skills as educators, students will hopefully make the transition from high school to college. He said that these exams can give students an opportunity to get into college, while the OGT cannot.

“That’s the key: the bridge to somewhere [or the bridge to college], because the OGT is a bridge to really nowhere,” Shelton said. “So, [end-of-course exams] are a bridge to somewhere. Battelle for Kids saw a need to bridge the gap between high school and college, and with that, made a proposal to the state of Ohio to operate a pilot. And through this pilot, they work with ACT to develop the end-of-course exams and the Quality Core standards.”