Juniors at 10 Milwaukee high schools have Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corp. to thank for supporting a program intended to raise their ACT scores.
The philanthropic arm of Great Lakes seeks to improve lives by increasing access to and success in higher education, according to Amy Kerwin, chief educational opportunities officer. “We want to see these students succeed in college from the first day,” she said.
College Possible Milwaukee’s award was part of $4 million in “College Ready” grants Great Lakes awarded to 34 student-centered programs in Wisconsin and Minnesota for the coming academic year. The grants support specialized academic help for students from traditionally underserved backgrounds: first-generation college students, those from low-income families and students of color.
“It is all about the academic preparation that they need to do as well as they possibly can on the ACT,” said Edie Turnbull, College Possible Milwaukee’s executive director. The ACT is one of two standardized tests used for high school achievement and college admission in the U.S.
“In the grant proposal, we specified that our goal is to help increase students’ scores by a minimum of two points,” she explained. That can make a significant difference in how many schools accept them and the ACT is also a very strong indicator of readiness for college, she added.
College Possible Milwaukee’s ACT prep includes four practice tests taken during junior year before the actual test in the spring. The practice tests are scheduled on Saturday mornings at local college campuses to mimic the actual test conditions, Turnbull said. The organization compares the scores from the first practice test taken before the prep classes begin, to the scores on the actual test taken in April. The average increase was 18 percent in the 2011-12 school year, according to the College Possible website.
To maximize a student’s chances for success in college “it is very important to find the [school that is the] best possible fit. The more acceptances a student has, the more likely it is that we will find the right fit,” Turnbull said.
Kerwin agreed. “When we were deciding about the grant, we looked at the fact that an increase in the ACT scores means an increase in a student’s options and that means a greater chance of success,” she said.
Kerwin called College Possible Milwaukee’s program “the shining star. Not only does it have a strategic program, but it also has the ability to track students’ progress and demonstrate their results,” she said. “This is important to us achieving our underlying goals of increasing students’ access and success.”
College Possible Milwaukee’s estimated budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year is $1.2 to $1.3 million, according to Turnbull. “Great Lakes has helped us with some level of grant every year from 2008, but this is the largest grant,” she said.
Milwaukee schools served are: Alexander Hamilton High School, International Peace Academy, Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Milwaukee School of Languages, Morse – Marshall High School, Pulaski High School, Riverside University High School, Saint Joan Antida High School, Saint Thomas More High School and South Division High School.
Turnbull said she is “truly grateful for Great Lakes’ support. We would not be in 10 schools today without the support they have given us every year.”