September 2, 2008

RRHS Scores Beat U.S. Average

By Elaine D. Briseo Journal Staff Writer

Rio Rancho High School scores on the ACT, a collegeentrance exam, are slightly higher than the national average, according to the school district. The number of RRHS students taking the ACT is also increasing. Students typically take the test during their senior year and the results are used for college admission and placement. The questions on the test cover English, math, reading and science; students can earn an average composite score ranging between 1 and 36. The composite score for the RRHS students graduating in May was 21.5, according to a district news release, compared with the national composite score of 21.1. The average for New Mexico, according to the ACT Web site is 20.3. The Web site shows that 63 percent of New Mexico 2008 graduates took the test. During the 2007- 08 school

year at Rio Rancho High, 467 students took the exam. The 2008 graduating class had 582 ACT test-takers, which, according to the news release, was 73 percent of the seniors.

The increase is significant, Rio Rancho Public Schools spokeswoman Kim Vesely said.

Rio Rancho High principal Richard VonAncken said the school has taken steps to encourage more students to take the test and to increase academic performance.

Counselors and academy heads have made a push for more students to take the test in the past few years and have tried to raise parent awareness about its importance.

The school, from 1997 when it opened until this past school year, followed a block schedule, which meant students had four 90-minute classes a day. The schedule allowed students to accelerate their learning. Students would typically take math one semester and then science the other semester.

VonAncken said over the years, the high school staff tweaked the schedule to improve academic performance, focusing especially on math.

"Math is something you have to do every day to remember it," he said. "Students were doing a year's worth of work in one semester and they were forgetting it."

Staff adjusted the schedule so sophomores would have math year round and juniors and seniors who had completed their required math credits were encouraged to sign up for additional math classes.

The high school shifted to a more traditional eight-period school day starting this August. Students now have all their core classes - - math, English, science and social studies -- year round. The new schedule also leaves room for a tutoring period for those students who need it.

"I'm looking for a major breakthrough this year with the new schedule," VonAncken said.

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