Baldwin County Public Schools have outperformed the Alabama state average in all ACT subtest areas over the last five years and have made gains on the national average. Tom Hartner, Secondary Curriculum Coordinator for BCPS, attributes the school district’s success to teachers and administration being intentional about the importance of the ACT and providing students with adequate time to prepare for the standardized test.
The 2022 ACT will take place on Tuesday, April 12. The 11th-grade college readiness assessment is a benchmark for individual students regarding acceptance into colleges and funding for post-secondary endeavors. Hartner, who oversees curriculum for grades 7-12, said, “It is crucial for our students to be present for the test and do their best.”
Baldwin County teachers work every day to prepare students for life after high school, including the ACT. The district’s curriculum department provides professional development for teachers to learn content-specific strategies from ACT experts. Additionally, Hartner shared that teachers worked diligently throughout the pandemic to provide test prep assistance to students during unusual times.
The school district provides a free ACT preparation course for grades 9-11. The CERT Prep course is an online assessment product that aligns with the Career and College Readiness Standards, covering all content areas included on the ACT and matches the test’s format, including question types, difficulty level and timing. CERT allows students to take up to three benchmark practice exams and access specific formative quizzes for every content area. “CERT provides each Baldwin County student with a projected ACT score, allowing them to track their growth,” Hartner said. After quiz competition, videos explain problems and offer tips and strategies on approaching future questions. Hartner encourages parents to ask their children about the free service and utilize this tool.
It is recommended that juniors take at least one mock exam before taking the actual ACT to have the highest chance for success; the timed test takes planning and practice on the student’s part. “We don’t want the real ACT to be the first-time students experience the pressures and challenges associated with taking the test,” Hartner shared. Furthermore, Hartner stressed the importance of ACT preparedness regarding financial aid and opportunities as “one or two points can be the difference in tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship award.”
The school district relies on parents, local businesses and churches to help motivate students to prepare for the annual ACT. “We feel that students need to hear a common message from people outside the school buildings and believe it will go a long way in encouraging them to do their best on this pivotal assessment,” Hartner said. Therefore, the school district is always looking for community partners and urges local businesses and churches to help spread the word about the upcoming ACT, such as posting on bulletins or offering incentives for doing well on the standardized test.
Baldwin County Public Schools continues to provide resources to influence ACT practice in the community. Last summer, BCPS held the inaugural free ACT Summer Bootcamp at three locations throughout the county, where participants received a complimentary ACT Prep workbook. The district hopes to have additional boot camps in the spring and summer.