Big Sky School District Superintendent Dustin Shipman takes a look at his students’ ACT results, pleased to say 12 out of the 17 had a score of 22 or above, making them eligible for Montana University System admission. “We can say that 12 out of 17 of our students, when they were juniors, were prepared for college… I’m pretty proud of that,” he said.

High marks

Lone Peak ACT takers top the charts
“I think our results speak for themselves, that the kids take this seriously.” —Big Sky School District Superintendent Dustin Shipman responding to another round of top ACT results from Lone Peak High School students.

The results are in, and for the second year in a row, Lone Peak High School came in first for ACT scores in the state of Montana, with 17 test takers averaging a 23.18. In 2015-16 LPHS came in third.

Statewide, 9,644 2017-18 Montana high school juniors averaged a 19.56 ACT score. Following Lone Peak, Choteau—a district not often seen in the top five—made second place, followed by Gardiner and Bozeman respectively. 

“It speaks to our program, it speaks to our community, and to the seriousness around the academics. That kids take it seriously and that they want a lot for themselves, and their families want a lot for them,” Big Sky School District Superintendent Dustin Shipman said of the honor of making first place. “We’re only celebrating our tenth birthday as a high school, and to have three consecutive years, even in the top two or three, it speaks volumes.” 

All Montana juniors have the opportunity to take the ACT free of charge at their school, a program Shipman explained was put in place by former Public Instruction Chief Denise Juneau. It’s the test Montana state universities use to gauge prospective students’ odds of success, along with a number of other states. 

“It got every student to take the test,” Shipman said of the free testing program. “And if you look at the numbers, more students who maybe never thought about college, after they took, that, were like, ‘Huh, I might have a path to a two or four-year university or college, because I did ok.’ It might have been cost-prohibitive before, because it is expensive, but in this session it’s free.” 

The pencil to paper, highly monitored test was taken at LPHS last April by every member of the 2019 class—who then, results in hand, had the option to re-test out of pocket in the summer or fall if they decided to try to up their score. Some of those students are now readying to apply to colleges where they hope to secure early admittance.

The college admittance test, which tops out at a score of 36, measures students on their English, math, reading and science abilities. If a test taker scores a 18 or above (88 percent of LPHS takers did so), they’re considered in line with college prep, a 22 or above means they’re eligible for Montana University System admission (70 percent of LPHS takers qualified), and a 28 and up qualifies a student for the Western Undergraduate Exchange Scholarship, which enables students in western U.S. states to attend out-of-state colleges at a greatly discounted nonresident rate (24 percent of LPHS takers made that mark.)

Though it may seem like just another test, Shipman said he’s seen a real interest in the ACT among current juniors. 

“I think our results speak for themselves, that the kids take this seriously,” he said. “With 90 percent-plus of our students going off to four-year colleges, they get it. The ACT is nothing new when we start talking to them about it, and they understand the importance. And we as a school try to keep it on the front burner that this is not only important to the school, but to the students, to help them move forward.”

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