UNION COUNTY — Both locally and statewide scores for 11th grade students taking the ACT tests in the spring of this year (2017) declined in most of the subject areas tested.
In a statement released Thursday morning, Union County School District Chief Academic Officer Cindy Langley explained that “a major state and district goal is to ensure that our students are college and career-ready. The tool the state has chosen to measure college readiness is the ACT, which was administered to all 11th grade students in the spring of 2017. This is the third state administration for 11th grade students.”
Langley described the ACT as “a test of curriculum-based and classroom-based achievement. Students receive both an average score on each subtest they take as well as a benchmark score. Students who score at or above the designated benchmark on each subtest have a 50 percent chance of making a B in the corresponding college course and a 75 percent chance of making a C in that course.”
Those students taking the test “received scores in English, Math, Reading, and Science and Writing. but Langley said “there is not a benchmark or corresponding college course for Writing. The benchmark for English is 18 and the corresponding course is English 101; the Math benchmark is 22 and the corresponding college course is Algebra 1; the Reading benchmark is 22 and the corresponding college course is a social science course; the Science benchmark is 23 and the corresponding college course is Biology 101. The ACT uses a 36-point scale in each of those areas.“
Mean Scores And Benchmarks
With one exception, the mean scores of the UCHS students taking the ACT decreased in each subject tested as did the percentage of those meeting the benchmarks in those areas.
“The mean score of Union County High School juniors on the English tests rose slightly from 15.0 percent to 15.1 percent, and the percent meeting the college benchmark of 18 increased from 23.3 percent to 27.9 percent meeting the benchmark,” Langley said. “Statewide the mean score for English decreased from 16.7 percent to 16.6 percent; the percent meeting the benchmark statewide also decreased from 39.5 percent to 38.2 percent. ACT considers any change of three-tenths of a point in the mean score to be statistically significant; one-tenth of an ACT point is comparable to four points on the SAT, another exam that measures college readiness.”
“The percent of UCHS juniors meeting the benchmark in Math decreased from 13.0 percent to 8.9 percent, and the mean decreased from 17.1 percent to 15.9 percent,” Langley said. “Statewide the mean score for Math decreased from 18.4 percent to 17.8 percent; the percent meeting the benchmark statewide decreased from 23.5 percent to 21.6 percent.
”The courses that a student takes prior to taking the ACT impact a student’s readiness for each subtest, especially in math,” she said. “School administration and teachers will review math progressions to ensure that we are providing instruction in the designated areas to as many students as possible prior to their taking the ACT in their junior year.”
“The percent of UCHS students meeting the benchmark in Reading decreased from 21 percent to 15.1 percent with the average score decreasing from 17.2 percent to 16.0 percent,” Langley said. “Statewide the mean score for Reading decreased from 18.5 percent to 18.0 percent; the percent meeting the benchmark statewide decreased from 29.5 percent to 26.8 percent.
“The percent of UCHS students meeting the science benchmark decreased from 13.5 percent to 7.4 percent with the mean decreasing from 17.5 to 16.7,” Langley said. “Statewide the mean score for Science decreased from 18.5 percent to 18.1 percent; the percent meeting the benchmark statewide decreased from 21.2 percent to 17.3 percent.“
Langley said that the district’s composite scores, which she said are “comprised of English, Math, Reading, and Science scores, decreased locally from 16.8 percent to 16.0 percent; statewide, the scores decreased from 18.2 percent to 17.7 percent. There is not a benchmark for the composite score.”
As for the Writing scores, which Langley said “do not impact the composite scores and do not have a benchmark, moved from the 36-point scale in 2016 to a 12-point scale in 2017 so a comparison cannot be made from 2016 to 2017. Locally, the writing average was 5.6 percent while the state average was 5.9 percent.“
The press release states that scores were reported for the second time for ELA, which Langley described as “a combination of the English, Reading, and Writing scores, and for STEM, a combination of the math and science scores.”
These results were also mixed as the district’s “ELA scores increased from 15.2 percent to 15.5 percent with state scores decreasing from 17.0 percent to 16.6 percent. District STEM scores decreased from 17.6 percent to 16.5 percent and 17.6 percent with state scores decreasing from 18.7 percent to 18.2 percent.”
Langley said that “the high school leadership team will use the information from the ACT to create interventions to improve areas of weakness as revealed by the student scores. Parents who wish more information about their student’s individual scores should contact the student’s guidance counselor at Union County High School. Score summary reports can be found on both the Union County School District’s website and the South Carolina Department of Education’s website.”