Schools in Proviso Township High Schools District 209 are offering different programs to help juniors prepare for the upcoming ACT/PSAE on April 23 and 24.
Robert Modiest, 16, a Proviso Math and Science Academy (PMSA) junior, said the constant drilling during the KeyTrain sessions is helping him to become a better test-taker.
"It gives you practice problems," he said. "It focuses on reading and math, but there are other things. It’s repetitive, but it helps me. If you keep doing stuff over and over, it helps."
Robert is among the several hundred students in District 209 who are using various prep programs to gear up for the upcoming ACT/PSAE. The programs, which are offered both during the school day and on Saturdays, are designed to help junior students improve their performance and to help faculty determine which students need more help. The tests are important in measuring a student’s readiness not only for college, but for a future career as well.
"Student performance on the ACT and PSAE is important in assessing where they stand academically," said Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart, superintendent of District 209. "To help them perform better on the test, they need to be prepared."
Proviso East and Proviso West are both working toward the goal of "20 and 5," aiming for an average of at least a 20 of 36 on the ACT and a 5 of 7 on the Work Keys portion on day two of the exams. To help improve their chances of achieving this, the principals and student leaders are stressing the importance of doing well and being prepared for the tests through rallies, assemblies, publicity campaigns, and prep programs.
Students who scored at or above their school’s average score at all three high schools were invited into the Cambridge Program. The program, which meets on Saturdays, provides practice and test-taking tips. In addition, extra instruction is provided based on students’ performance on the PLAN test they took as sophomores and the practice ACT they took on January 8 as juniors. Ms. Kisha Lang, the assistant principal for educational services at Proviso East High School, said the students who scored at Proviso East’s average score on the PLAN were named to its "All Star Team." Those who scored above the average score were selected for the "Dream Team." The 75 students who scored at or above that threshold are then able to work with certified teachers in math, English, social studies and science during lunch periods and after school.
Michelle Villaron, 17, a Proviso East junior, said that being on the "Dream Team" has helped her in preparing for the state tests.
"They give you strategies on how to take the test wisely," she said.
Juniors at PMSA are prepping for the science and social studies portions of the tests through the online ACT Prep courses and the English and math portions on the KeyTrain every other week. Teachers also are reviewing retired ACT tests with their students.
"KeyTrain focuses on everyday scenarios," said Kayla James, 17 and a PMSA junior. "It’s preparing us for the real world."
At Proviso West High School, staff members are meeting in groups of two to three students each as "student advocates," working with students on various areas leading up to the tests. There are also plans being developed to work with the juniors during the second half of their lunch periods.
Students said that they believed they were benefitting from the extra work.
"Our ACT teacher shows us to go through the questions in order so we keep up with questions," said Taylor Porter, 17, a Proviso West junior. "They break it down so we can understand the question."
Ladarius Sapho, 16, and a Proviso East junior, has had a similar experience.
"They teach you how to do the question in 30 seconds," he said. "Some questions, you can do in 10 seconds."
Students also have been learning about the importance of showing up for both days of the exams and taking both the ACT and PSAE seriously.
"If the kids take one day at a time, we’ll probably be looked at as a school that improves," said Trevonte Reynolds, 17 and a Proviso West junior.
It is clear that students, teachers and the district overall have placed a great deal of emphasis on preparing students to do their best on the upcoming tests. We are encouraging the entire community to come on board in helping to support our efforts.