Recent Bulloch County high school graduates posted better — and worse — results on the ACT college-entrance exam than their counterparts from a year ago, depending on the subject.
But no matter the subject, 2013 Bulloch County public school graduates fell short of state and national averages, as well as benchmarks that ACT Inc. considers to demonstrate readiness for college-level work, according to ACT results released Wednesday.
Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson said the results show the district has a long way to go.
"It is clear that this school system's past approach to preparing our students for college and careers, as measured by the ACT, has not been successful, and warrants significant improvement," he said. "When you consider this in relation to our patterns of performance on other measures of postsecondary readiness, it is even more evident that we have to do things differently and immediately."
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 Academy, a private school, saw its scores jump in all subject areas for the 2013 class. The school's highest score in any subject was 24.6 on math, and its lowest was 23 in science - which still matched the college readiness benchmark and was well above the state (20.5) and national (20.7) averages. BA's composite score was 24.1, much higher than the state (20.7) and nation (20.9).
"We attribute the increase in our students' ACT scores to the high standards we set and the advanced curriculum measures we have put in place," Head of School Leisa Houghton said. "All students in the high school take college preparatory class, and those not in Advanced Placement classes are still challenged with curriculum measures above the state standards."
While Bulloch County public schools did post improvements in some areas, national averages fell in all four ACT subject areas.
"Once again, our data show that high school success and college readiness are not necessarily the same thing," said Jon Whitmore, the CEO of ACT. "Too many students are likely to struggle after they graduate from high school."
In Georgia, the scores basically held steady, even though a record number of students — 48,505 — took the exam in the 2013 graduating class.
"I am proud to see our students' scores gain ground on the national average on this important test," State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said. "But we know there is much work to be done to ensure that every student is ready for college or a career when they graduate high school."
In Bulloch County, 464 members of the class of 2013 took the ACT, compared to 497 in the 2012 graduating class. Bulloch County as a whole saw improvements in reading and science, while English and math fell. The district's composite score — an overall average of all four tests — was 18.4, the same as in 2012.
At the school level, Southeast Bulloch High, for the second straight year, was the only local public high school to score higher than the college readiness benchmark in any ACT subject. SEB 2013 graduates scored 18.3 on English, which was actually a drop from 18.8 by 2012 graduates but still higher than the benchmark, 18. SEB saw declines in all tested areas from the class of 2012 to 2013, and its composite score fell from 19.4 to 19.1.
Statesboro High's science score was 18.6 for 2013 graduates, up from 18 for the class of 2012. The school's composite score held steady at 18.1. More than half of the district's test takers in the class of 2013 — 239 — were Statesboro High students.
Portal High School posted improvements in English and math, but the overall scores were still well below district averages. Portal's English score rose from 15 to 15.8, and reading improved from 16.4 to 17.5. The school's composite score was 17.1, an improvement from 16.7 in 2012.
"We are only going to be as strong as our weakest link, and our children's futures are hinging on that," Wilson said. "It is my intent as superintendent to keep us moving toward a continuous improvement model that empowers our teacher-leaders and unleashes our students' capabilities for success."
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.