More 2012 high school graduates from Bulloch County and the state took the ACT — and they posted higher scores — compared to the class of 2011, according to results made available Wednesday.
Bulloch County’s average composite ACT score for the class of 2012 was 18.4, compared to 17.8 for 2011 graduates. That trailed Georgia’s averages of 20.7 in 2012 and 20.6 in 2011, and the national average of 21.1 for both graduating classes.
The ACT is a college-entrance exam that is scored on a 36-point scale. It tests students’ mastery of English, math, reading and science, and there is an optional writing test.
In Georgia, the SAT is the predominant college entrance exam taken by high school students, but the ACT continues to gain ground.
Statewide, 52 percent of 2012 graduating seniors, or 47,169, took the ACT. That is roughly 4,000 more than took the exam in the class of 2011, and nearly 14,000 more than among 2008 graduates.
The Bulloch County school system has a similar trend. In the class of 2012, 497 graduates took the ACT, compared to 472 among 2011 graduates and just 155 in the class of 2008. The district offered the ACT free to 11th-graders in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years, but has no plans to do that again this school year.
“I am pleased to see our students’ scores headed in the right direction and the gap closing between Georgia and the national average,” State School Superintendent John Barge said in a news release. “I think it is significant that our participation rate on the ACT increased considerably and we still have growth in overall scores.”
School-level scores show more variation. Southeast Bulloch High School had the district’s highest average composite score, 19.4, for its 2012 graduates, up a full point from the class of 2011. Statesboro High School’s was 18.1, up 0.4 point from 2011, and Portal Middle High School posted a 16.7 composite score, up 0.3 point.
Bulloch Academy is the county’s only private school that had enough graduates take the ACT for measurable results. The academy’s scores were the highest of any school in Bulloch County, with an average composite score of 21.6, but that was a steep 1.3-point drop from the class of 2011. The academy does have a much smaller number of test takers than the public high schools, however, and smaller groups tend to have larger year-to-year fluctuations in test scores.
Despite the mostly positive trend in results, ACT CEO Jon Whitmore said in a news release that there is plenty of room for improvement nationally. The release notes that more than one in four 2012 graduates did not meet any of the college readiness benchmarks in the four ACT-tested subjects, and 60 percent met no more than two benchmarks. Only 25 percent met all four.
“Far too many high school graduates are still falling short academically,” Whitmore said. “We need to do more to ensure that our young people improve. The advanced global economy requires American students to perform at their highest level to compete in the future job market and maintain the long-term economic security of the U.S.”
Barge noted that more 2012 Georgia graduates, 10,377, demonstrated that they are ready for college-level work in all four ACT subject areas compared to 2011. But that means only 22 percent of the 2012 graduates met those benchmarks, although that is an improvement from the 21 percent of 2011 graduates who made that grade.
“I’m very pleased that more of our students are demonstrating college and career readiness,” Barge said. “As we implement the Career Pathways initiative, I believe students will begin seeing more relevance in courses they are taking, which will translate into an even higher percentage of our students scoring at college- and career-ready levels.”
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.