Education

Here’s how Columbus area high schools compare on ACT scores

Spencer High School principal Johnny Freeman
Spencer High School principal Johnny Freeman

Spencer High School leads Columbus area high schools in overall improvement on the ACT college entrance exam during the past year.

Spencer is the only local school to increase its average composite score on the four ACT subject tests of English, math, reading and science by at least 1 point. Comparing the 2015 and 2016 results, Spencer’s composite score increased by 1.1 points, from 16.2 to 17.3. The highest score possible is 36.

Northside recorded the second-best improvement among local schools. Its score increased by 0.4 points, from 19.0 to 19.4.

The other local schools whose graduating class improved their ACT composite score from 2015 to 2016 are Hardaway by 0.3 points (from 18.0 to 18.3), Smiths Station by 0.3 points (from 18.5 to 18.8), Jordan by 0.2 points (from 16.8 to 17.0) and Central by 0.1 point (from 17.2 to 17.3).

The local schools whose score declined are Carver by 0.2 points (from 16.8 to 16.6), Chattahoochee County by 0.2 points (from 19.2 to 19.0), Harris County by 0.2 points (from 20.4 to 20.2), Shaw by 0.2 points (from 18.0 to 17.8) and Columbus by 0.1 point (from 25.6 to 25.5).

The 2016 score for Early College Academy, which scored an 18.2 in 2015, isn’t in the Georgia Department of Education’s spreadsheet because the school had less than 15 students take the ACT this year, meaning too few to report, according to Patrick Knopf, the Muscogee County School District’s director of research, accountability and assessment.

In an interview Friday with the Ledger-Enquirer, Spencer principal Johnny Freeman highlighted initiatives the school started this past year that he thinks helped improve its ACT performance.

Spencer students spent more time on vocabulary development in their English language arts class. They focused more on writing in all subjects, including the use of graphic organizers, which help students see logical patterns, such as sequence and cause and effect, and can lead to better writing structure, problem solving and research planning. They also boosted their higher level thinking by increasing their use of the free online tutorial Khan Academy, Freeman said.

And the Spencer faculty emphasized the significance of students taking the ACT or the nation’s other college entrance exams, the SAT, whose 2016 results haven’t been released. Spencer reached its goal of ensuring each of the 158 members of the senior class was accepted to a college, the military or a work-based learning program, Freeman said.

“We’re very proud of that,” he said. “When we set that goal, the students knew they had to do well on the college entrance exams.”

Spencer’s improvement led the way in lifting the Muscogee County School District’s average composite ACT score to a historic high. As the Ledger-Enquirer reported earlier this week, MCSD increased its score by 0.4 points, from 19.0 to 19.4 – its best in at least 11 years. The district’s confirmed records for ACT scores date back to only 2005, according to MCSD communications director Valerie Fuller.

Muscogee and eight of its nine high schools (all except Columbus), however, remain below the state and national averages, while Georgia (21.1) surpassed the U.S. average (20.8) for the first time.

In Alabama, Central remained below the state average (18.7), Smiths Station surpassed it and Russell County hasn’t provided its results despite the Ledger-Enquirer’s repeated requests. The Alabama State Department of Education hasn’t released the 2016 school-level ACT scores and has relied on the school districts to decide whether to make them available.

ACT results

Comparing average composites scores on the 2015 and 2016 ACT:

School/System

2015

2016

+/-

Muscogee County

19.0

19.4

+0.4

Carver

16.8

16.6

-0.2

Columbus

25.6

25.5

-0.1

Early College

18.2

NA

NA

Hardaway

18.0

18.3

+0.3

Jordan

16.8

17.0

+0.2

Kendrick

15.7

15.7

0

Northside

20.1

20.5

+0.4

Shaw

18.0

17.8

-0.2

Spencer

16.2

17.3

+1.1

Harris County

20.4

20.2

-0.2

Chattahoochee County

19.2

19.0

-0.2

Central

17.2

17.3

+0.1

Russell County

17.3

NA

NA

Smiths Station

18.5

18.8

+0.3

Georgia

21.0

21.1

+0.1

Alabama

18.8

18.7

-0.1

Nation

21.0

20.8

-0.2

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