Education

Here’s a breakdown of the 2019 ACT scores for Columbus-area high schools

The Muscogee County School District has reached its highest score on one of the major college entrance exams.

MCSD’s graduating class of 2019 averaged a composite score of 19.8 on the ACT, an improvement of 0.4 points compared to the class of 2018 results, according to data released Wednesday.

The Ledger-Enquirer reported last month that MCSD surpassed the national and state averages on the SAT, the other major college entrance exam. Although it continues to lag those benchmarks on the ACT, it is closing the gap.

Georgia’s average ACT composite score remained at 21.4, outperforming for the fourth consecutive year and fourth time in history the United States’ average of 20.7, which decreased by 0.1 point from 2018.

Approximately 49% of Georgia’s 2019 high school graduates took the ACT. The national rate was 52%.

The SAT participation rate for the class of 2019 was 67% in Georgia and 7% in Alabama.

The College Board doesn’t report the national SAT participation in a percentage, just that approximately 2.2 million students in the graduating class of 2019 took the SAT in the United States. The ACT reported that nearly 1.8 million members of the 2019 class took its test.

In Alabama, where the average composite score decreased by 0.2 points to 18.9, every 11th-grader at a public high school is given the opportunity to take the ACT. The schools are required to have a participation rate of at least 95% as part of the state’s accountability system.

Here’s how the 2019 graduating class in the other metro Columbus high schools performed on the ACT compared to the 2018 class:

  • Harris County remained at 20.8.
  • Chattahoochee County decreased by 0.9 points to 19.3.
  • Central-Phenix City increased by 0.2 points to 17.2.
  • Russell County increased by 0.1 point to 17.4.
  • Smiths Station decreased by 0.3 points to 18.1.

The highest possible ACT score is 36. For students who take the test multiple times, their most recent score is used for the school, district, state and national averages, Ed Colby, the ACT’s senior director of media and public relations, told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email Wednesday.

Muscogee County

MCSD improved on all four ACT subject tests when comparing the 2019 class to the 2018 class.

  • Increased in reading by 0.7 points to 20.7.
  • Increased in English by 0.4 points to 19.
  • Increased in science by 0.2 points to 19.6.
  • Increased in math by 0.1 point to 19.1.

The ACT participation rate in Muscogee County fell from 44% in the class of 2019 (902 test-takers out of 2,061 students) to 41% in the class of 2018 (843 out of 2,053).

“It is gratifying to report our continued progress toward all-time highs, on our composite score and in the areas of Reading and English, while also continuing to close the gap with the state average,” superintendent David Lewis said in MCSD’s news release. “Although our number of test-takers for the ACT declined slightly this year, more students pursued the SAT. With that in mind, we will continue to offer challenging coursework and support to ensure our students have the best opportunities for success on these assessments.”

Harris County

Breaking down the results by subject, Harris County’s score improved in half of them:

  • Increased in reading by 0.3 points to 22.
  • Increased in English by 0.2 points to 20.3.
  • Decreased in math by 0.5 points to 19.4.
  • Decreased in science by 0.4 points to 20.7.

“While we have plateaued this year,” HCSD assistant superintendent for curriculum Dave Dennie told the L-E in an email, “we are pleased that we maintained our level of performance of last year.”

Harris County’s participation rate dipped from 60% in the class of 2018 (250 ACT test-takers out of 418 students) to 58% in the class of 2019 (226 out of 390).

Although HCSD’s class of 2019 outperformed the state average on the SAT, they remained below that benchmark on the ACT.

“We as a district are placing a focus on performance metrics and what we can do to improve them,” Dennie said. “We will continue working on school improvement using a combination of indicators, such as SAT, ACT, School Climate Star Rating and CCRPI to guide our focus.”

Chattahoochee County

ChattCo’s participation rate slipped from 22% in the class of 2018 (20 ACT test-takers out of 91 students) to 19% in the class of 2019.

Superintendent Kristie Brooks noted how course selection can affect a student’s score on a college entrance exam.

Statewide, nearly 25% of the state’s students whose math score was at or above the average took trigonometry or calculus. But in ChattCo, less than 5% of ACT test-takers took either course.

“This data point supports our collaboration with the National Math and Science Initiative as we begin examining additional rigorous courses beyond the core that should be available to our high school students,” Brooks told the L-E in an email. “By ensuring that our foundational skills lead to readiness for college-level work, we can reaffirm our vision for college and career readiness by articulating a focus on more rigor across the content.”

Phenix City

Phenix City Schools improved on half of the ACT subject tests:

  • Increased in English by 0.8 points to 16.9.
  • Increased in reading by 0.5 points to 17.6.
  • Decreased in math by 0.2 points to 16.7.
  • Decreased in science by 0.1 point to 17.2.

“The results are reflective of a total student population with less than a 1% dropout rate,” superintendent Randy Wilkes told the L-E in an email. “Phenix City Schools’ goal is to engage, graduate and prepare all students for college and career.”

Improving the school system’s ACT scores, Wilkes said, is “a primary objective. … Teachers in grades 9-11 are utilizing a new curriculum, and students will establish ACT goals using two mock ACT assessments.”

Russell County

Compared to last year’s class, Russell County improved on half of the ACT subject tests:

  • Increased in English by 0.7 points to 17.4.
  • Increased in science by 0.4 points to 17.6.
  • Remained at 17.7 in reading.
  • Decreased in math by 0.5 points to 16.7.

The improvement comes from “a dedicated focus on analyzing data and providing professional development based upon that data,” superintendent Brenda Coley told the L-E in an email. “Every teacher and administrator in the system is responsible for our high school’s success, and ownership of the data is our first step to improvement.”

Each day, high school teachers use ACT “warm-ups and reviews” to prepare their students, Coley said.

They also use the results of the pre-ACT students take in 10th grade to “adjust the effectiveness of our instruction and strategies to target areas for improvement,” she said.

Smiths Station

Smiths Station’s scores dropped on three of the four ACT subjects compared to last year’s class:

  • Decreased in English by 0.2 points to 17.5.
  • Decreased in reading by 0.3 points to 18.8.
  • Decreased in science by 0.6 points to 17.8.
  • Remained at 17.8 in math.

So although Smiths Station’s composite ACT score continues to surpass its fellow east Alabama high schools of Central and Russell County, it’s the only one of the three schools that didn’t improve its score this past year.

“We have work to do,” Lee County School superintendent Mac McCoy told the L-E in an email. “… We must focus on areas of deficit and adjust teaching strategies, accountability and expectations for all. We have the correct people in place to get the job done.”

LOCAL COMPARISON OF ACT COMPOSITE SCORES

Note: The years in the chart represent the students in that high school’s graduating class, not necessarily when they took the test. They are ranked here in order of their class of 2019 scores.

School/group20182019+/-
Columbus High25.525.9+0.4
Georgia avg.21.421.40
Harris Co.20.820.80
United States avg.20.820.7-0.1
Northside20.920.4-0.5
Muscogee Co. avg.19.419.8+0.4
Chattahoochee Co.20.219.3-0.9
*Early CollegeNA19.1NA
Alabama avg.19.118.9-0.2
Hardaway18.018.3+0.3
Smiths Station18.418.1-0.3
Shaw17.417.5+0.1
Russell County17.317.4+0.1
Central-Phenix City17.017.2+0.2
Carver16.316.7+0.4
Jordan15.916.3+0.4
Kendrick16.216.20
Spencer17.015.5-1.5
Rainey-McCullersNANANA

Early College Academy closed at the end of the 2018-19 school year and merged with Jordan Vocational High School.

NA: Not available. Early College Academy had too few students (less than 15) take the ACT in 2018, so its average score wasn’t reported by the state then. The ACT scores for Rainey-McCullers School of the Arts aren’t reported by the state for the same reason. The school, which opened in August 2017 with students in grades 6-10, added 11th grade last year and 12th grade this year.

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.
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