TALLMADGE: Each year, Tallmadge High School sophomores take at least two tests: a mock ACT exam in the fall and a state-mandated graduation test in the spring.
Both tests assess a student’s readiness for college. The results, however, did little for educators other than pile up seemingly scattered and meaningless data.
“We always have an excess of data and the inability to make sense of it so that it could be helpful to us,” Principal Rebecca DeCapua said.
Then Matt Deevers stepped in.
Deevers is a senior research associate at the Summit Education Initiative, a collaboration of public schools and universities that focuses on college preparedness and the “cradle-to-career” pipeline. He used data from the November test, which predicts success on the ACT college entrance exam, to identify which students were most likely not to pass the reading portion of the Ohio Graduation Test — taken in May and a requirement to earn a high school diploma.
His research allowed DeCapua and her teachers to implement additional reading instruction for 58 students who otherwise might have failed the graduation test.
The endeavor produced results that everyone noticed: 57 of the students scored a passing grade (“Proficient”), with 43 ranking in the higher “Accelerated” category.
“I was shocked,” said Breanna Clemens, one of the students who received intervention and scored at the Accelerated level. “I didn’t think I would do that.”
Kent State University graduate students, under the guidance of professors in the school’s College of Education, helped Tallmadge teachers facilitate the intervention.
Highland and Tallmadge schools participated in the fruitful experiment this year. Deevers wants to see more high schools participate in the data collection next year.
With all Summit County high schools administering that same mock ACT test in the fall, local educators say Deevers can produce digestible data that could be used to formulate and implement timely, targeted intervention in each district.
“We’re looking at building that program out to other schools in Summit County,” Deevers said.
The push for college readiness is driven by universities that increasingly are denying admission to incoming freshmen who require developmental math or reading courses. At nearly all public, four-year universities statewide, Ohio does not reimburse the schools for those remedial courses.
Tallmadge is tackling the math portion this summer, using some of the same data Deevers provided in the fall to identify a dozen more students who might need the intervention to avoid remedial algebra classes in college.
Clemens and 11 other students are spending three hours a day twice a week pounding away at computers at Tallmadge High to polish their math skills.
Much like the reading intervention program, paid for by a Minding the Gap grant from the Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Department of Education, the math program uses tutoring software to hone these 12 Tallmadge students’ education in an effort to avoid unnecessary tuition costs in the future.
“That’s why I’m doing this,” said Emiley Schott, a 16-year-old sitting next to Clemens in the computer lab Thursday morning.
Schott hopes to attend the University of Akron in 2½ years. In the meantime, the university has voted to stem the flow of students needing remedial courses by 25 percent each year, chipping away at a student population that doesn’t bring in full state funding.
As she completes a practice question and checks her progress, Schott acknowledges that UA could ask her to attend a community college if her test scores don’t meet Ohio’s rising standards for college admission.
“I know I need a pretty high score to get in there,” she said.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com.