ACT scores drop slightly in school district in 2008

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By Jesef Williams

Local scores on the ACT college-entrance exam dipped slightly compared to the numbers a year ago.

The American College Testing Program released scores last week.

Lancaster County School District's 2008 high school graduates had an average composite score of 17.4 on the test's 36-point scale. The district's score in 2007 was 17. 7.

"We remained pretty much constant," said Lydia Quinn, the district's director of planning and accountability.

ACT considers a change of three-tenths of a point to be statistically significant. One-tenth of an ACT point is comparable to four points on the SAT.

Andrew Jackson High School had the highest 2008 average of the four county's high schools with 18.5. Indian Land High School was second at 18.2.

Buford High School and Lancaster High School seniors averaged 17.9 and 16.2, respectively.

In the last school year, 209 of the district's high school graduates took the ACT, a decline from 239 a year before.

Lancaster High had the most seniors in the district to take the test. Eighty-four students there took ACT.

Quinn said the district has a relatively small number of students taking ACT each year, so a few students could skew the numbers greatly.

The scores should be used to gauge an individual student's aptitude, not to judge the quality of an entire school, Quinn said.

"You can see great fluctuations from year to year," she said.

The district suggests for students taking the ACT to complete the recommended courses, including four years of English and three or more years of math. Three or more years of social studies and science are also included.

District students who took the recommended classes had an average composite score of 18.1, Quinn said. Those who didn't had a 15.9 average.

"That's a vast difference in scores," Quinn said. "By increasing rigor of course load, they increase the chance of being successful."

State scores

South Carolina improved on its 2008 average composite score, moving from 19.0 a year ago to 19.9. This year's national average was 21.1. In 2007, it was 20.7.

"The national composite score has fluctuated over the past five years compared to our steady increases," said state Superintendent of Education Dr. Jim Rex. "Our score is up six-tenths of a point over five years, and we achieved half of that gain this year. I said before we needed to improve at a faster rate to be competitive. That's exactly what we've done."

The ACT includes four tests – English, math, reading and science. Scores are reported in each of those areas as well as the overall composite score.

The scores are from students who graduated in 2008, regardless of the year when their most recent scores were recorded.

SAT scores are expected to be released next month. SAT remains the dominant college-entrance test taken by students in Lancaster County, as well as the state.

However, the number of students taking ACT has increased in recent years.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152