Three out of the four high schools in Bartow County saw an increase in ACT scores this year.
Figures released by the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) Wednesday showed the average composite score for the Class of 2015 at Cartersville High School rose to 21.7, up from last year’s score of 21, while Bartow County’s three high schools tallied an average composite score of 20 this year, down very slightly from 2014’s score of 20.1.
Both systems’ scores were close to the state’s average composite score of 21 this year — equal to the national average — which increased slightly from last year’s 20.8. Georgia’s rank jumped from 30th in 2014 to 28th in 2015.
Students taking the ACT, which is a national college admissions exam, are tested in four content areas — English, reading, math and science — and those four scores are averaged together for their composite score. Each test score and the composite score range from 1 (low) to 36 (high).
Cartersville Assistant Superintendent Ken Clouse said system officials were happy with this year’s scores.
“Any time there is an increase in student performance, you have to be pleased,” he said. “However, you need to take these types of results for what they are and not read too much into them. We try to look for trends over a period of time, and it is very difficult to compare one year’s ACT data — or SAT data — with the next year because you are testing a completely different group of students.”
The scores continue an upward trend that started several years ago, according to Clouse.
“From a trend standpoint, our English, reading and science average scores were the highest they have been in the last seven years, and the math score ties the highest in the last seven years,” he said. “The overall composite score is the highest average in the last eight years. So the current trend is something positive, and we will continue to try to build on that.”
The Class of 2015 had an English score of 21.1 (20.5 in 2014), a math score of 20.6 (same as last year), a reading score of 22.7 (21.4 in 2014) and a science score of 22 (21 in 2014).
As for the Bartow County system, Cass and Woodland high schools both saw a 0.2 increase: from 19.1 last year to 19.3 this year for Cass and from 20.5 in 2014 to 20.7 in 2015 for Woodland.
Adairsville High’s 2015 graduating class dropped to 20.1 from last year’s 20.7.
“Certainly, I am very pleased with the gains we are making,” Superintendent Dr. John Harper said. “Our staff works very hard to prepare our students, so it is a great encouragement to see them do well. We know we still have room to improve, and we are continuously looking for ways to do so.”
Bartow’s scores for the content areas were unavailable at press time.
Both school systems saw an increase in the number of students taking the exam this year — 31 more for Bartow County and 20 more for Cartersville.
“Our number of ACT test takers was constant at around 265 to 270 in 2011, 2012 and 2013; however, we did see a large increase since that time,” Harper said. “The reason for this, I suspect, is students are comparing the format and length of the ACT and SAT and deciding the ACT is the better option.”
“An increase or decrease in the number of students taking the ACT or SAT is not surprising,” Clouse said. “It is a typical occurrence, depending upon the particular group of students.”
The number of high school students across the state taking the ACT increased by 7.8 percent from last year, with a total of 54,653 students taking the exam in 2015, according to a DOE press release. Of this year’s ACT-tested graduates, 91 percent aspired to further their education at a post-secondary institution.
Neither school system has a preparation program for the exam, but each has recommendations to help students get ready for it.
“Currently, we encourage students to take advantage of online resources such as the ACT website and apps for their phone,” Harper said. “With the availability of excellent online resources and our computer labs open to students, purchasing test prep materials is an expense we could not incur at this time.”
“The ACT is a broad-based scope of measurement over several content areas,” Clouse said. “The best preparation is students availing themselves to the most rigorous classes and reading a broad base of materials in both their academic and personal pursuits.”
Statewide, Georgia students had the top scores among Southern states, outperforming students in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.
They also scored higher than students in Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.
“Georgia students’ ACT performance is on par with the nation and outpaces most other Southern states, and I’m pleased to see that,” state school Superintendent Richard Woods said in the press release. “These results are a testament to the hard work of our teachers. I think we’ll continue to see gains as we realign our focus and implement child-focused, classroom-centered policies.”
State scores in English, reading and science increased, with the average English score rising from 20.3 to 20.6, reading from 21.4 to 21.6 and science from 20.7 to 20.9. The average math score held steady at 20.5.
“We are certainly pleased to outperform state averages in all ACT content areas and compare favorably with national data on this particular test,” Clouse said.
Scores also rose among minority students in Georgia, with the average composite score rising from 17.6 to 17.8 for black students, 19.9 to 20.1 for Hispanic/Latino students and 21 to 21.4 for students of two or more races.
Minority students in Georgia also outperformed their peers nationally.
Georgia’s black students had an average composite score of 17.8, compared to 17.1 nationally, and Hispanic/Latino students recorded an average composite score of 20.1, compared to 18.9 nationally.