TRAVERSE CITY — Students at The Pathfinder School are outperforming their regional and national counterparts on the ACT-Explore test, an exam meant to measure students' readiness for college-level courses in English, math, reading and science.
Pathfinder's eighth-grade students scored in the 70th percentile in English, math and reading, which means they are in the top 30 percent of the total tested population. They scored in the 63rd percentile in science.
The Grand Traverse regional average percentile ranged from 58 to 60, depending on the subject, topping the national average of 50 across all subject areas.
Rob Hansen, Pathfinder's head of school, attributes students' success to small class sizes and hands-on learning.
"I think some of the testing that's happening right now, although it may be well-intended, students feel very externally measured," Hansen said. "We don't put that type of pressure on students at all. We just encourage them to think and learn and explore."
Pathfinder is an independent nonprofit school just north of Traverse City in Leelanau County that enrolls about 105 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students. All 13 eighth-graders took the Explore test in the spring.
Most districts in the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District give the test in eighth or ninth grade to help prepare students for the ACT.
"Really what it does is it gives you an indication on the student's ability to be successful in a college-level course. It very much tracks to the ACT," said Jason Jeffrey, assistant superintendent for general and career and technical education at the ISD.
Thirteen is a small number when compared to the hundreds of students across the region who take the test, but Pathfinder Admissions Director Caroline Maier said the school's student body is representative of the Traverse City area.