Each year, millions of students across the country take the ACT, a test which could determine where they’ll go to school after graduation. For many students, the pressure to perform well on the exam can be overwhelming.

Although Ralston High School has offered ACT prep classes for students in the past, this year a number of changes have been made to the test prep curriculum.

During March and April, all students from freshmen to juniors spend Tuesdays and Thursdays preparing for the test. At RHS, this is the first year freshmen and sophomores have been included in test preparation classes.

Each grade level is different in how they approach the test.

Freshmen are given a more general overview, while lessons for sophomores are based on their MAP scores, a standardized test sophomores and other grade levels take that aids students what areas of study to garner their focus.

Juniors focus on more advanced aspects of the test.

The changes come partly from the State of Nebraska and partly from Ralston Public Schools.

RPS had previously paid for all its students to take the ACT. Now, the State of Nebraska is paying for all juniors across the state to take the test, while RPS is still paying for their preparation classes.

Another change is that juniors at RHS no longer have to take the NESA test, as the ACT now takes its place in determining where students stand academically and by testing their knowledge.

In past years, RHS offered its ACT prep classes at various times throughout the day, both during and after school. This new time, during homeroom period, makes sure all students have time for test preparation, especially those with busy schedules.

“I know for sure that when we were offering it during non-school hours we’d have really good participation during the beginning, then it would kind of dwindle off,” RHS Principal Jesse Tvrdy said.

Students are taught using the John Baylor Prep program during March and April, but they can also access an online testing website throughout the year for extra preparation.

Tvrdy believes offering these lessons — be it from their regular lessons in class to the ACT test prep classes to practicing on their own — will ensure students are prepared by the time they take the test junior year.

“They’re getting a blended approach to ACT prep, not just one or the other,” Tvrdy said.

Junior Taylor Skiles has already taken the ACT, and although she was pleased with how she did, she’s hoping to do even better when she retakes the test next month. Skiles said if RHS didn’t offer ACT prep to its students, it’s unlikely she would take classes anywhere else.

“It’s nice because you’re forced to put in that extra effort but it’s not so time consuming that it would take away from your other classes,” Skiles said.

What the prep classes do best, Skiles said, is help students understand what they don’t know for the test. Many students have forgotten previous class lessons that will be asked on the test, and this class provides a refresher for them.

The amount of work and effort RHS students have put into the lessons and preparation so far indicate to Skiles that this is a worthy program for students preparing for the ACT.

“It just shows that we need it, we want it, and students are willing to put in the work for it,” Skiles said. “It’s not a wasted cause.”

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