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Although Helena’s latest ACT scores have again bested the state average, high schools as great as ours should be aiming even higher.

A total of 9,570 high school juniors throughout Montana, including 628 in Helena, took the ACT in the spring of this year to meet federal reporting requirements.

The average composite scores came in at 20.73 for Helena High and 20.58 for Capital High, which performed well above the state average of 19.61. Only three of the 15 AA high schools in Montana performed better than Helena’s two high schools: Bozeman with 22, Missoula Hellgate with 21.17 and Missoula Sentinel with 20.89.

By that comparison, Helena’s schools appear to be doing great when it comes to standardized testing. However, as school district Superintendent Tyler Ream correctly pointed out, there's still room for improvement. 

The Montana University System generally requires a score of 22 or higher for first-time freshman admission, which shows that the high schools in Helena and throughout the state still have a ways to go. 

According to information from the Montana Office of Public Instruction, the latest test scores indicate that only 32% of Montana students and 39% of Helena students who completed this test this spring are ready for college. While college is not a good fit for every student, all students should have the knowledge, skills and abilities they need to pursue a higher education if they choose to do so by the time they graduate from Helena Public Schools.

Of course, a student’s ability to fill in the correct bubbles on a two hour and 55 minute exam does not show the whole picture. Some students who performed poorly on the ACT will undoubtedly go on to be very successful in their future college and career endeavors, and some who scored well will struggle.

But standardized test scores do offer a general idea of how well students understand the basics of English, math, reading and science, which they will use for the rest of their lives.

Improving Helena’s test scores will mean more opportunities for Helena students. And we’re confident that our schools can make that happen under the leadership of Ream and his excellent team of educators. 

This is the opinion of the Independent Record editorial board. 

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