A year after it set a record, the Union County School District saw its college entrance exam scores fall in all categories.
Director of Secondary Education Cindy Langley announced Thursday that the average composite ACT college entrance exam scores of Union County High School seniors declined between 2011 and 2012. Langley said in 2011, the seniors taking the exam had an average composite score of 18.8 on the ACT’s 36-point scale. She said this was the highest score achieved by the district’s seniors within the last 10 years.
This year, however, Langley said the average composite score of the seniors taking the exam was 17.5. While this was higher than the 2010 average composite score of 17, it is still lower was lower than the 2011 score.
Statewide, the average composite score increased slightly from 20.1 in 2011 to 20.2 in 2012. Langley said ACT considers any change of three-tenths of a point to be statistically significant. She said one-tenth of an ACT point is comparable to four points on the SAT.
Like the composite score, Langley said Union County’s scores in the four subjects — English, mathematics, reading, and science — tested on the ACT also declined from the 2011 highs but were still higher than the 2010 scores. She said the district’s score in English went from 15.5 in 2010 to 18 in 2011 to 15.8 in 2012. The district’s scores in reading were 16.8 in 2010, 18.2 in 2011, and 17 in 2012. In science, the district scored 17.6 in 2010, 19.5 in 2011, and 17.9 in 2012.
Mathematics remained the district’s strongest subject, declining only slightly from 18.9 in 2011 to 18.7 in 2012. In 2011, the district’s score in mathematics was 17.6.
Statewide, the scores in the individual subjects were 19.5 in English, 20.2 in mathematics, 20.4 in reading, and 20.2 in science.
Langley said the decline in the English and reading scores were the main factors in the district’s lower average composite score. She pointed out that the district’s performance in mathematics remained strong, however, and that while the district’s scores fell below its 2011 high, the seniors taking the exam still performed better than those in 2010.
“Last year we hit a district high with a significant jump in ACT scores in all areas tested as well as the average composite score,” Langley said. “While we certainly hoped to match that achievement this year, we are pleased that our math scores, which have always been our strength on the ACT, have remained near the bar set last year.
“In looking at the results our scores were much lower in English and in Reading than the previous year and that impacted our 2012 score,” she said. “We will continue to use the information from PLAN and EXPLORE, practice ACTs that students take in the tenth and eighth grade, to identify gaps in all subject areas, especially English and science.”
While the district will take steps to help students prepare for the ACT, Langley said the students must also make the effort to prepare themselves for the exam. She pointed that performance on the ACT is determined by the amount of preparation the students who will take the exam undergoes. That level preparation can vary from year to year and with it the ACT scores.
“What we have to recognize is that students sign up for these tests whether or not they’ve taken the coursework or the level of coursework they need to do well on the test,” Langley said. “We’re always comparing one group of students from one year with students from a previous year and inevitably there are some students who take the exams who haven’t adequately prepared themselves to do well.”
Langley pointed out that it is especially important that a student master reading skills in preparing to take the exam.
“The ACT relies heavily on Reading comprehension so therefore if a student is not a strong reader, he or she is not going to score well on English, reading or science,” Langley said. “We will continue to emphasize grammar, vocabulary study and reading comprehension across the curriculum to better prepare all students. A student who is planning to go to college, whether a two-year or four-year institution, should take a rigorous course of study while in high school. You’ve got to prepare yourself for these tests.”
Langley urged students and their parents to meet with the students’ guidance counselor to plan a course study that will provide them with the preparation they need for their chosen career path as well the ACT and SAT.
The ACT is a test of curriculum-based and classroom-based achievement, and scores in the new report are from students who graduated in 2012, regardless of the year when their most recent scores were recorded. Although the SAT is the most-taken college-entrance exam in South Carolina, all of the state’s colleges and universities now accept ACT scores for admission requirements. Students must earn a 24 on the ACT to meet the college entrance exam requirement for a LIFE scholarship.