Beginning this school year, the state of Ohio will require all high school juniors to take the ACT.

Results for the 2016-17 school year show Grandview Heights students already have stepped up to the challenge.

"We're very excited about the level of participation we've seen and the results our students are having on the ACT," Grandview Heights High School Principal Ken Chaffin said.

"We've got a lot to celebrate," he said.

Juniors take the ACT each spring. Last year, 80 Grandview High School juniors took the test, representing about 85 percent of the class.

Grandview's participation rate increased from 75 percent in 2015, when 66 juniors took the test.

"It shows our students have a buy-in, even before they were required to take the test," Chaffin said.

The ACT covers English, math, reading and science and has a top score of 36. Grandview's composite average grew from 24.3 in 2016 to 25.4 in 2017, which likely will place the high school among the top two or three in central Ohio, Chaffin said.

Other highlights:

* Grandview's average scores in both English and reading rose by 1.6 points from 2016 to 2017.

* The school earned the highest average scores for the past five years in English, reading and science.

* All of Grandview's college-readiness benchmark indicators increased 6 percent to 8 percent from 2016 to 2017. These are 50 percent predictive indicators of a student earning a B grade or higher or a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher in a college course and are based on the performance on each subject test on the ACT, district leaders said.

* The percentage of Grandview students who met the B predictor in all four areas rose from 47 percent in 2016 to 55 percent in 2017.

High school staff members have focused individually and collectively on aligning curriculum and content, assessments and vocabulary with the ACT, Chaffin said.

"It's definitely paying dividends," he said.

That is reflective not only in the ACT results but in the growing percentage of Grandview students who are accepted by their first choice of college, as well as in the record-breaking $11.1 million in scholarship offers earned by the class of 2017, Chaffin said.

"We're offering increased rigor in our courses and giving our students more opportunities to take Advanced Placement and college-credit classes, and they are taking those opportunities and meeting those challenges," he said.

This year, 17 juniors are enrolled in a college calculus class, the highest-level math course available at the high school.

"They've maxed out as far as they can go in math at our school and are already earning college credit," Chaffin said. "What's really exciting to me is that if you look at our middle school, we have 33 students enrolled in math classes that put them on target to be taking the college calculus class by their junior year."

Not every student should go on to college after high school, but Grandview is committed to offer the opportunities, resources and support to help any student who wants to attend college, he said.

"For us, that's an ethical imperative," Chaffin said.

In October, freshmen will be able to take a pre-ACT test.

"Anytime we can replicate a testing situation with the ACT, there's value in that experience for our students," Chaffin said. "For us, it gives us information we will be able to use to revise our curriculum where needed to align with the ACT."

The ACT has higher stakes than ever before, said Srinath Sampath, founding partner of PrepAccelerator, a Dublin-based testing and tutoring consulting firm.

"It's not just that the state of Ohio is requiring all students to take the test," he said. "Colleges and universities are increasingly using the test as a yardstick to help determine which students they will accept."

A 2015 survey of college-admissions officials by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling showed 88 percent of schools place considerable or moderate importance on ACT scores when making admission decisions, Sampath said.

PrepAccelerator offers private tutoring sessions to help students prepare for the ACT, but it also has partnered with local libraries, including the Grandview Heights Public Library, to offer free ACT seminars for students.

"That is the nonprofit component of what we do," Sampath said. "It's our way of giving back to the community. We want to make sure every student has access to the information that will help prepare them for the day they take the ACT."

Sampath will present "ACE the ACT," a seminar that will be offered over four Saturdays at the Grandview library, beginning Oct. 28. The seminar is set from 1:15 to 4:45 p.m. for four consecutive Saturdays through Nov. 18.

"It's an intensive seminar in which I teach about all five sections of the ACT," Sampath said, including the optional writing section.

"My aim is to make it engaging for the students using humor and by making it highly interactive," he said.

A student can attend all four weeks, or register to attend an individual session that covers a specific test subject, Sampath said.

"In the class, we review and work out the different types of questions that a student will see on the ACT and also provide strategies for success on the test, both common-sense tips and noncommon-sense suggestions," he said.

The sessions are free; registration is required. For more information, visit prepaccelerator.com.

"ACE the ACT" also will be offered Sundays, Oct. 15 through Nov. 5, at the Westerville Public Library.

Students from any community or high school, including home schoolers, are invited to sign up for any session, Sampath said.

"The libraries we're working with, including Grandview, Westerville and the Northwest Library, have been so wonderful and accommodating," he said.

Another "ACE the ACT" seminar will be held beginning in January at the Grandview library, Sampath said.

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