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Superintendent Defends Slight ACT Dip at Annual Meeting

Conrad Farner said as more Greenfield students take the test than ever before, a dip in the overall aggregate score is natural.

With more students taking the ACT than ever before, it’s only natural for the district’s aggregate test scores to be slightly down compared to last year.

Greenfield School District Superintendent Conrad Farner delivered that message to fewer than 30 citizens and about a dozen school officials and administrators at the district’s annual meeting in the Monday.

Farner’s comments came less than three weeks after the state’s Department of Public Instruction released the 2011-12 ACT data, data that showed Greenfield’s from 21.1 to 20.9, as reported by Greenfield Patch on Aug. 22.

“I never get excited about one year of data,” Farner said. “To go from 21.1 to 20.9 in one year, we’re not going to get excited about that, especially when you look at the previous two years we saw increases over that baseline data as we were increasing the number of students who were taking the tests.”

In 2011, 185 Greenfield students took the ACT, or 73.1 percent of all juniors, a mark higher than the state average of 71 percent and one of the highest marks, if not the highest, in school history (DPI data only dates back to 1995-96).

Farner said that, coupled with the fact that only 20 percent of Greenfield’s students go on to four-year colleges or universities, is a large reason for the dip.

“That’s almost unheard of that you have that many students taking the ACT when such a low percentage of the students go on to a four-year university or college,” he said.

“Every high school in the area, you have your students who are in your top 10, 20 percent, really high GPAs, really engaged. They’re at school every day. They’re working hard. They get the homework done. When those students take the ACT, they tend to do pretty well.

“Then you’ve got a whole other three quarters of the population that isn’t necessarily that engaged in school, isn’t necessarily working their tails off, getting the best grades they can get, getting high GPAs, mastering the material. The more of those students that take the ACT, generally, their aggregate scores are going to be deflated a little bit. That’s exactly what you see happening here.”

Farner said the district makes a concerted effort to have more students take the test annually and that Greenfield students take similar tests as both ninth- and 10th-graders and by the time they are juniors they are used to taking standardized tests like the ACT, which has led to an increase in participation.

He said until the state requires all students to take the test, comparisons between districts should not be made.

“Some of the schools in the area, where there’s been some positive press that their ACT scores have jumped, you need to check how many kids are actually taking it,” Farner said. “There are some cases where some of the schools have the smallest number of kids actually taking the test.

“When I read some of the reports in the media I always have to shake my head a little bit and wish there were more thorough explanation of what’s going on.”

Farner also used his address to highlight other district achievements from recent months:

  • 2011 seniors were granted more than $2.1 million in scholarships;
  • the high school’s National Honor Society’s Holiday Sharing program was once again a success as students gathered and donated thousands of clothing items, hundreds of toys and truck-loads of food to area charities and hospitals;
  • the district’s Junior Air Force ROTC program, one of few like it in the state, is thriving;
  • and the district once again held the Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society at the high school track in August.
Lee September 12, 2012 at 03:08 PM
This guy doesn't get excited about anything. (Maybe his paycheck) Everything is no big deal. Yes, we want cool heads in office, but not this cold. Come on, you are in charge of the children's education! It is a big deal!
John Seymour September 12, 2012 at 04:01 PM
So when Conrad told people in a meeting that we were going to scrap a k-12 initiative to provide a continous curriculum he was supporting the improvement of test scores. When he told people he wanted to eliminate parent teacher conferences he was providing a community environment? Blaming families and kids for failure is not the way to go. By the way...for all of you hoping for me to resign...don't worry my negativity does not impact your kids.
4 Greenfield September 13, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Where did Mr. Farner get the data he presented at the annual meeting? According to the latest info reported on the DPI website, 56.5% of Greenfield graduating seniors go on to a 4-year college and 19.5% go to a 2-year or tech school. That is a far cry from the 20% figure he gave as the reason why so many students underperform on their ACT tests. And most of the schools that improved their ACT test scores also had increases in the number of students taking the ACT test. I.E. Greendale went from 78.9% of students taking the test and scoring 23.5 in 2010-11 to 82.4% scoring 24.3 for 2011-12. Since so many Greenfield students do go on to additional schooling after high school, even more important to raise those scores.
John Seymour September 13, 2012 at 02:47 AM
4 Greenfield....more evidence that he is a liar. He is making stuff up to save his job. I can't believe people defend him. The facts on the DPI website have to be true...districts can't lie.
GreenfieldParent September 13, 2012 at 03:09 PM
http://www.newberlinnow.com/news/168979366.html ACT score 25% lower than competing schools isn't something that can be explained away. When will the School Board see through the Farner Fog?

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