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Thunder Basin reports higher ACT scores, graduation rate to school board

GILLETTE, Wyo. — In a meeting of the Campbell County School Board on Tuesday, Thunder Basin High School was in the spotlight for more than one reason.

To kick off the meeting, the Thunder Basin Robotics Team gave a presentation to the board, robot in tow. Seniors in the club played a video of their robot from a recent tournament before giving a live demonstration.

Thunder Basin Robotics Team seniors present to the Campbell School Board on April 23, 2024. From Right to left: Jack Weiss, Victoria Schmitz and Joshual Camacho.

Following the team’s presentation, Thunder Basin Principal Mike Daniel went before the board to give the school’s annual academic report. In state metrics, Thunder Basin scored a “meets expectations” status overall, meeting performance metrics in all categories except one target level for post-secondary readiness, which they only missed by two rubric points. Post-secondary readiness is measured by the state using a percentage of prior-year graduates who are “college-ready.”

In WY-TOPP testing, Thunder Basin outperformed the state average in ninth- and 10th-grade math by over 10 points, as scored by the number of students who scored “proficient and advanced.” English and science scores improved from the previous year as well, though they did not exceed state averages.

Click here to view the academic report metrics in full.

While graduation rates have slipped down noticeably since pre-COVID years, Thunder Basin reported an 84.8% graduation rate that beats out the district and statewide averages by several points. ACT scores also went up for the Bolts in the 2022–23 school year compared to the year prior, though they did not improve upon scores from the 2020–21 school year.

While differing amounts of students taking the test each year may impact overall averages, most categories stay relatively similar between years, with one exception. ACT English section scores have dropped by over 10 points since the 2020–21 school year.

Daniel acknowledged the composite score was not yet where they wanted it to be, telling the board he and his staff were making changes to improve students’ preparedness for the test in the future.

“We’re not satisfied with that; we would like to be in the 20s or higher. We tackle the ACT pretty hard with our new ACT prep class. I believe we’re gonna see some results from that,” Daniel said. “We currently have 110 kids that took our ACT prep class this year, which is awesome.”

The class has over 120 students who have requested to join the class next year. Additionally, the school had adjusted when the juniors were taking the practice ACT, moving it closer to the actual testing date in April to ease students’ anxiety about sitting for the exam. If students were not satisfied with their score, Daniel said, the school was strongly encouraging them to retake it, furnishing any need for vouchers or coordination with the state to make it as accessible as possible for them.

Daniel, who has been with the school since it opened, is a first-year principal. He thanked the board for its time at the end of his presentation, also taking a moment to express how proud he was of his school.

“I’m probably the proudest 4A principal in the state. I’ve got an amazing school. We’ve got great kids and great staff that walk in that door every single day,” Daniel said. “And I love going to work every day and and I’m going to love pushing us to get better every day.”