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ACT scores sees improvement
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Newton County School System saw improvements across the board on its 2014 ACT college entrance exam scores and number of test takers but remained behind the state and national scores in every subject.

Unlike the SAT college entrance exam, a reasoning test that measures critical thinking skills and assess how well a student analyzes and solves problems, the ACT is a series of curriculum-based, multiple choice tests that cover content knowledge in four basic skill areas: English (college English composition), math (college algebra), reading (college social science) and science (college biology), according to an NCSS press release. There is an optional writing test. Students also receive a composite score, which is calculated on a 0-36 scale.

“I’m very proud of the increases across the board this year on the ACT,” said NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey. “We’re not where we want to be on our college entrance exams, but we are definitely heading in the right direction. Our ultimate goal is to provide a rigorous education that ensures all students are college and career ready upon graduation.”

The average district-wide scores for English increased from 17.9 to 18.1, and the average math scores increased from 17.8 to 18.1. The district’s reading score marked the largest increase, going from 19.0 in 2013 to 19.7 in 2014. Science scores rose from 18.6 to 19.0, marking the second-largest increase of .4 points. Of the 616 students who took the ACT in 2014 – 52 more than last year – a district-wide composite score came out to 18.8, which was .3 points higher than in 2013.

School-level scores
According to the official ACT report, Alcovy High School posted increases in all subjects, including its composite score. The number of students who took the ACT decreased by 23 people to 161, but those students managed to earn higher scores by .4 points in English, .3 in math, .5 in reading and .1 in science. Alcovy’s composite score of 18.5 ranked .3 points higher than in 2013.

Eastside High School had 38 more test takers (190) than last year and improved scores in math (+.2), reading (+.2) and science (+.1). Students scored .2 points lower in English than last year’s test takers, and their composite score remained unchanged (20.1).

Also with 38 more test takers (265), Newton High School increased its scores in all subjects. ACT scores in English posted at 17.2 in English (+.3), 17.4 in math (+.2), 18.8 in reading (+.9) and 18.5 in science (+.6). The school’s composite score improved .5 points from last year, coming in at 18.1.

State and national scores
There were 50,697 test takers across the state in 2014 who marked a composite score of 20.8. English scores posted at 20.3, math at 20.5, reading at 21.4 and science at 20.7. According to the Georgia Department of Education (GADOE), the state’s composite score in 2011 was 20.6, which ranked 37th in the nation. In 2014, Georgia’s composite score put it at 30th in the country.

Throughout the nation, 1,845,787 test takers scored an average 21.0 on the composite ACT. The county’s average score for English was 20.3, 20.9 for math, 21.3 for reading and 20.8 for science.

According to the NCSS press release, “through collaborative research with postsecondary institutions nationwide, the ACT established the following college readiness benchmark scores for designated courses”:
- English composition: 18 on the ACT English test

- Algebra: 22 on the ACT mathematics test

- Social Science: 22 on the ACT reading test

- Biology: 23 on the ACT science test

Benchmark scores represent the minimum scores that indicate a 50 percent change of obtaining a B or high in the corresponding college courses or a 75 percent change of obtaining a C or higher.

“Our students’ performance continues to rise on the ACT, and that’s important to us because it’s a nationally comparative measure of their readiness for college,” said State School Superintendent John Barge. “The state longitudinal data system; more rigorous standards; a consistent, high-quality testing program – continuing those initiatives will close gaps and will ensure that more students are college-bound and ready for success after high school.”

Georgia ranked at the top of the list among Southeastern states, outperforming Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, West Virginia, Arkansas and South Carolina, according to the GADOE. Georgia students also outpaced their counterparts in Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Hawaii, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona.