Eleventh-graders in Natrona County and across Wyoming saw their average ACT scores drop for the second straight year, according to scores released Thursday.
Natrona County juniors averaged a 19 on the ACT when they took it in spring 2018, a drop from 19.3 the previous year and 19.7 in spring 2016. Across Wyoming, students averaged a 19.5, the lowest ACT average score in at least six years here. The highest possible score on the college-readiness assessment is 36.
Data comparing Wyoming to other states’ ACT scores will be available in October. Wyoming’s 2017 class previously ranked 35th nationally, and seventh of the 17 states who require all students take the assessment.
In the Natrona County School District, the two largest high schools experienced dips from spring 2017. At Kelly Walsh, the average ACT score dropped from a 20.3 to a 19.5. Natrona County High’s fell slightly, from a 19.1 to an 18.9. Midwest School, which often experiences large swings because of its small population, saw progress: In 2017, the students there averaged a 16.1. But in spring 2018, the average rose to 18.5.
Roosevelt High, the district’s alternative school, held steady at 15.3.
No district official was available to comment on the scores Thursday.
The ACT scores come two weeks before students return to schools in Natrona County and seven months after the district posted a three percentage point jump in its graduation rate, an increase propelled by a historic 83.3 percent rate at Kelly Walsh.
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Compared to Wyoming’s other large school districts, Natrona County was closer to the low end — Sweetwater No. 1’s 18.4 — than the high, Albany County’s 21.2. Laramie County No. 1, the only district larger than Natrona, averaged a 19.5.
Albany County tested 566 fewer students than Natrona, which tested 26 fewer than the Cheyenne-based Laramie No. 1.
The state’s top performing school was Burlington High, in Big Horn County. The school is small — just 17 students took the test in the spring — but has consistently posted high scores. In 2017, the school’s average ACT was a 22.6.
Next came Jackson Hole High (22.3); Sheridan High (22.1); Lovell High (21.9); Cheyenne’s Central High (21.6); Star Valley High (21.6); Laramie High (21.5); and Cokeville High (21.5).
At the other end, Fort Washakie-based Fremont County School District No. 21 had the lowest average ACT score. The 12 students averaged a 13.7. At nearby Fremont County School District No. 14, in Ethete, the average score was 15.3 for the 27 students who took it.
As the Legislature has worked to grapple with the state’s school funding crisis, ACT scores have become increasingly political. Though the funding situation isn’t the chasm it was even last August, lawmakers are still considering cuts to Wyoming’s K-12 schools. Test scores have repeatedly provided fodder for both the pro- and anti-cut camps.