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Students' thinking at center of ACT preparation program

Dec 23, 2012 The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- Teach-ers at Cheyenne's Central High are focusing on how students think.

The work started with a grant-funded extended day program to help students who were underperforming -- specifically on the ACT, said Central Principal Stephen Newton.

He gave a presentation on the project, now in its third year, at a recent Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees meeting.

"The ACT is a test of incredible consequence for our kids," he said. "Not only is it an exam that determines their eligibility to enroll in college and universities across the nation but also if they'll be eligible for scholarships."

The test can also determine if students have to take remedial classes in college, he said.

Though the program aims to help students perform better on tests like the ACT, it is not a test-prep course, Newton said.

Rather, it focuses on helping students understand the higher-level thinking needed for the test, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports.

"The finish line where students end with us absolutely must be the starting line where they begin in their next endeavors, whether that is to college, a trade school, the workforce or the military," Newton said.

In one case, the individual work helped a student increase a score from a 16 to a 28 out of 36, he said.

In addition to helping individual students, it's also identified patterns of misunderstanding and gaps that can be used to help multiple students, he said.

"It's not just teaching test questions," said Central teacher Mary Kerns. "It's about building the skill level so (students) are able to answer the questions."

In the past several years, school test scores have increased steadily, even in years when state scores declined, Newton said.

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