Now that the dreaded March ACT is over, the Triumph College Admissions ACT preparatory program has become a shadow of the past for West High Juniors. The ACT, which was administered on a state-wide level to every junior in Kentucky on March 5, plays a sizable part in the complex science that is college admissions. A good score can mean admission to a quality school with possible scholarships; a bad score can mean scrambling to get into any school period. Doing well on the ACT will also yield KEES money from the state of Kentucky for in-state use. For any college bound student, the ACT is kind of important.
But how much did the dedicated 25-minute, three times a week enrichment mini-period really do for students? WJHS was fortunate enough to get a grant for 500 iPads to use during enrichment to access the TCA website, but they had their fair share of problems from the start. A frustratingly long school code and login process combined with bad wifi connections made for some very angsty students. With less than half an hour, little progress was made in class.
While many students liked the idea of setting aside time for ACT prep, most were frustrated with enrichment’s execution. Students were expected to accumulate at least ten hours of program usage. With a series of technological problems, for many this meant mindless clicking around on the website outside of school. Still others used the site honestly outside of the enrichment period but struggled to get the mandatory ten hours, which will be considered as a test grade in math, English, and some science courses. Some weren’t even made aware of the ten hour rule until very close to the ACT itself.
“The idea was good and may have worked. But then we were expected to get ten hours, and that affected our English, math, and science grades. That put pressure on us to get the grade and not use the site to its full potential,” said Junior Cory Laird. Several other students expressed their frustration with having to accumulate ten hours of “study time,” especially those going in to enrichment with already high ACT scores. Each and every junior, whether they had never taken the ACT and were predicted to get far below benchmarks or had gotten two 35’s in a row, was expected to utilize TCA fully. “Enrichment was a useful tool for students to improve their ACT scores, and there are many kids that improved. But students with higher ACT scores should have had other options,” said one WJHS teacher, demonstrating similar opinions between both students and teachers. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. And you certainly can’t make it drink the whole pond in ten minutes. And then punish it in three core classes.
Some core teachers were able to supplement their juniors with ACT help in their specific subjects. Precalculus teachers Mr. Miracle and Ms. Smith gave their students keys to logically narrowing down multiple choice answers in addition to quick calculator tricks. First-year AP Biology teacher Ms. Brown had students complete a practice science section (which is often the hardest because it comes at the end of the monstrous test) and AP Language and Comp teacher Mr. Corman went over grammatical basics in class. Those who actually paid attention to what their teachers were saying found their tips to be very helpful. When you have one minute per math question, a calculator trick that shaves off even 30 seconds comes in handy.
Now that the ACT is over, West has a plethora of unused iPads. Teachers are able to sign them out for in-class use, but many haven’t even touched them since the beginning of March. While having iPads at the ready is a plush luxury, students often question their purpose, wondering why cheaper laptops, or even cheaper prep books weren’t purchased instead.
Though many found fault in enrichment, the idea behind it was pure: to help students achieve success on a very important standardized test. What West Jessamine will do next year regarding ACT prep is still unknown, but it will probably look much different from this year’s experiment.