Smiths Station High School continued its improvement on the college readiness exam known as the ACT, and Central-Phenix City continued its decline, according to results released this week.
Not all local school districts and high schools submitted the information the Ledger-Enquirer requested, but Smiths leads the ones that did by showing the largest gain this past year on the composite score, which averages the four sections in the subjects of reading, English, math and science.
Smiths improved from 19.3 in 2012 to 19.7 in 2013. Although the school still trails the Alabama (20.4) and national averages (20.9), it has lifted its composite score a full point from 18.7 in 2009.
Smiths Station guidance director and senior counselor Princie Scott credits the Lee County School District's overall emphasis on preparing for the ACT but especially using an online practice course, first as a pilot program two years ago and then fully implementing it last year.
"The students can practice at home or at school at no cost to them," she said.
The ACT results are more significant for Alabama high schools because the majority of their students take that exam instead of the more nationally popular SAT, which also is favored in Georgia.
Among the local composite scores made available, all are below the state and national averages. Central-Phenix City has the lowest composite score in that batch and the longest decline. The school has dropped from 18.5 in 2009 each year to 17.7 in 2013.
Phenix City superintendent Larry DiChiara, however, insisted he isn't alarmed.
"The ACT is a predictor of college success," he said, "but until I hear our kids aren't succeeding when they go off to college, that's when I'll start worrying."
DiChiara emphasized the district has improved in all the state standardized tests.
"The ACT is not aligned to our curriculum," he said.
LOCAL ACT SCORES
Composite scores, averaging the four ACT Reasoning Tests (reading, English, math and science), in each of the past five years for local high schools, Georgia, Alabama and the nation. Note: Muscogee County had only its district averages available, not school-by-school:
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Muscogee Co. 18.3 17.9 19.0 19.0 18.8
Harris Co. 19.3 19.7 19.3 20.0 19.9
Chattahoochee Co. 16.9 16.4 17.9 17.9 18.0
Georgia 20.6 20.7 20.6 20.7 20.7
Phenix City 18.5 18.1 18.0 17.8 17.7
Smiths Station 18.7 19.4 19.2 19.3 19.7
Russell Co. 17.8 17.9 17.7 18.1 18.1
Alabama 20.3 20.3 20.3 20.3 20.4
Nation 21.1 21.0 21.1 21.1 20.9