Harbor City, Marshall lead in college prep

Harbor City International and Marshall School did the best job in the Duluth area of preparing last year's graduates for college, according to a college readiness report released by ACT.

Harbor City International and Marshall School did the best job in the Duluth area of preparing last year's graduates for college, according to a college readiness report released by ACT.

The report found that 39 percent of the 2006 graduating class was considered ready for college courses in English, social sciences, algebra and biology at Harbor City International, and38 percent of seniors at Marshall School.

The Duluth and Two Harbors school districts had about 29 percent, and led the way compared to other public school districts in the area. Hermantown had 28 percent, Cloquet was at 26 percent, Superior was at 19 percent and Proctor was at 15 percent.

The average across the state was 28 percent, and the national average was 21 percent, the study said.

Chris Hazleton, the director of Harbor City International, attributed the school's performance to its college preparatory focus.


"From the day our students arrive we help them define themselves as academics who will be going on to some kind of post-secondary education," Hazleton said. "Our curricular focus is tilted toward critical-thinking skills. That's what is going to prepare a student for college."

Hazleton said 72 percent of 2006 graduates took the ACT.

Marlene David, head of Marshall School, said the school's culture plays a role.

"There is a certain culture of expectations in the families that make the financial sacrifice to come here," David said. She said small class sizes and high levels of participation in extracurricular activities also make a difference.

"A lot of our students participate in the arts or clubs or athletics; even though it's not in the classroom it helps with confidence and risk-taking and the personal qualities that enable you to keep stretching yourself. That's really what it's all about."

She said 95 percent of 2006 graduates took the test.

Percentages were based on students' performance on the ACT assessment, said ACT spokesman Ed Colby. Not every college-bound student takes the ACT.

"We took the scores of thousands of students across the nation who took the ACT, followed them into college and obtained grade information from them in particular courses," Colby said. Then they compared the college grades with the test scores to determine a benchmark.


Benchmark scores were 18 for English, 22 for math, 21 for reading and 24 for scientific reasoning. The best possible score on the ACT is 36.

"The public schools in Duluth are for just that, the public," district curriculum director Rex Hein said. "That means we have to prepare kids that want to go on to a four-year college, two-year college, the military, straight to work and more.

"It would be nice if we could get all the parents and students to push themselves and their children to be ready for college ... but some of these kids don't even have that as an idea in their head."

Rex said some students will go on to college and do well regardless of their ACT scores.

"That doesn't stop them, and we don't want that to stop them," he said.

More than 90,000 students at 98 institutions across the nation were included in the survey.

Students who met benchmarks in the subject areas on the ACT were considered to have a 75 percent chance of getting a C or better in corresponding college courses, Colby said.

This is the second year ACT has attempted to predict the success rate of students in college.


"We are hoping this information will show students how they are doing academically in some of these areas and encourage them to take more rigorous courses to better prepare themselves for college-level coursework," Colby said.

About 82 percent of students were considered college-ready for English in the Duluth area, possibly indicating strong English programs in schools. About 40 percent of students were deemed ready for college science courses.

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