While there is some hand-wringing over the fact that statewide average ACT scores dropped this year to their lowest level since 1996, Wauwatosa needn't worry about its place in the pack.
Wauwatosa students who took the ACT college admissions test in the 2011-2012 school year once again outpaced state and national average scores, although with a very slight drop from the previous year.
With a cumulative score of 23.5 among students from both high schools, Wauwatosa juniors and seniors taking the ACT finished nearly a point and a half higher than the state-reported composite score of 22.1 and well above the nation's average of 21.1.
That score is down, though, from the Tosa schools' composite score of 23.7 in 2010-2011.
Tested students this year at East High accounted for the slippage, falling from 24.3 a year ago to 24.0 this year.
However, that is still one full point higher than the scores achieved by West High students at 23.0, unchanged from a year earlier.
The Tosa schools' average score for this year hardly signifies any trending, though, up or down. At 23.5, it is in fact exactly at the median between the district's highest and lowest scores over the past 17 years, the period for which Department of Public Instruction records are reported for comparison.
Wauwatosa students achieved a high of 24.1 in the 2009-2010 school year and recorded a low of 22.9 in 2001-2002.
The district's scores averaged over all those 17 years, also, is 23.5, exactly the same as this year's.
More students again taking the test
The best news then for the Wauwatosa School District, perhaps, is that more students took the test than had for the previous three years. While a high cumulative average is nice to look at, administrators also want to see as many students as possible participating.
In the record score-setting year of 2009-2010, only 63.9 percent of eligible students took the ACT – the lowest percentage over the 17-year reporting period.
That figure climbed this year to a healthy 68.6 percent for the two high schools together, with East High achieving a 70.4 percent participation rate, the first time it has surpassed 70 percent in four years.
Ideally, of course, school districts would want to see both participation rates (percentage of students taking the test) and district-wide average scores increasing together.
While those numbers, for Wauwatosa, have fluctuated only slightly over time, and not always in line with one another, administrators looking for good news could point with pride to one little statistical bright spot in the hard numbers:
In the first year of the report, 1995-1996, precisely the same percentage of district students took the ACT test as this year – 68.6 percent.
But on average, they scored a half-point lower – 23.0 vs. this year's 23.5.