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Bulloch County ACT scores rise, but fewer students take tests

Aug 20, 3:00 a.m.
Bulloch County's recent public high school graduates posted impressive gains on the ACT, one of the two major college-entrance exams, but there is a catch.

Far fewer members of the Class of 2014 took the ACT compared with the classes of 2011-2013. That's largely because for two years, 2010-11 and 2011-12, the school district paid for students to take the ACT, said Hayley G. Greene, the system's public relations and marketing specialist.

Bulloch County's lower participation in the ACT bucks the state and national trends, as the number of ACT test takers across Georgia and the U.S. significantly increased, according to results being released today.

Locally, the Bulloch County school system's 201 ACT test takers in the Class of 2014 posted a 19.5 composite score, which is 1.1 points higher than the classes of 2012 and 2013. But only 201 students took the test in the 2014 graduating class, compared with 497 graduates from 2012 and 464 from 2013.

The ACT is a standardized test administered to high school students to determine their college readiness. Each of the four tests (English, math, reading and science) is scored on a 36-point scale, with the composite score representing an average of the four. The ACT and the SAT are college entrance exams that are accepted by each of the nation's four-year colleges and universities.

Bulloch County's average score on the English section was 18.7, which exceeds the minimum benchmark of 18 identified by ACT as indicating a student is ready for college-level work. But the district as a whole, and all three high schools, fell short of the college-readiness benchmarks in the test's other sections: math, reading and science.

"Better preparing students for college and careers is an area where the Bulloch County Board of Education and I have focused the school system's efforts," Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson said. "Based on input from a discussion on this issue with local stakeholders during our three-month strategic planning process, the school system has created goals to address some of the barriers, concerns and opportunities in this area in our 20-year strategic plan."

Southeast Bulloch High School had the district's highest composite score, 21.2, and highest average score in each section, as it has for at least the last five years. Portal High School posted the biggest improvements, most notably in English (15.8 in the Class of 2013 to 19.4 in 2014) and science (16.7 to 21). Statesboro High also posted gains in every area and fell just short of the English benchmark with a 17.9 average.

Bulloch Academy, as is typical of private schools' performance on college entrance exams, exceeded the benchmarks in English (23.1), math (22.5) and reading (23.4), only falling short in science (21.5, where the benchmark is 23).

Wilson said the school system has partnered with the Pathways to Prosperity Network to develop a program to help align the district's high school programs with Ogeechee Technical College, business and industry, along with other community resources, to better prepare students for life after high school.

"By doing this, our likelihood of creating a win-win-win situation for our students, community, and postsecondary partners is very good," he said.

At every Bulloch County public high school, the number of test takers dropped to levels not seen since the Class of 2010. Portal had 21 test takers in 2014, compared to 45 with the previous graduating class; Statesboro had 134 test takers in the Class of 2014, down from 239; and Southeast Bulloch had 46 test takers, a drop from 180. Districtwide, the number of test takers fell from 464 in the Class of 2013 to 201 in the 2014 class.

Georgia and the nation posted similar trends to Bulloch County regarding scores. The average English score for 2014 graduates across Georgia and the U.S. was 20.3, but the state and nation fell short of the college-readiness benchmarks in math, reading and science. But both the ACT and the Georgia Department of Education noted that more students nationally and in Georgia are closer to meeting those benchmarks.

"Our students' performance continues to rise on the ACT, and that's important to us because it's a nationally comparative measure of their readiness for college," State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said. "This is one of many indicators that shows us that our current initiatives, which aim to increase the rigor of our standards and level of expectations for students, are working. They will continue to work if Georgia stays the course."

In Georgia, 50,697 members of the Class of 2014 took the test, up from 48,505 with the previous class. Nationally, 1.85 million 2014 graduates took the test, compared with 1.8 million in 2013.

"The increases we are experiencing are good news for the nation, as they point to growing interest in higher education among our young people," said Jon Whitmore, ACT
chief executive officer. "In today's global economy, it is more important than ever for individuals to continue their education beyond high school. The skills needed to
compete in the job market are becoming increasingly advanced."

Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.

 

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