ACT scores in VWSD see increase

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 19, 2004

[08/19/04] Students at both high schools in the Vicksburg Warren School District scored higher on the American College Test than those taking the test here last year.

The average for students who had completed college prep courses at Warren Central High School was 21. It was 20.1 at Vicksburg High School.

Those scores were both above the state’s average, which was 20. The highest score possible is 36.

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The ACT is an optional test, but is required by some colleges for students seeking admission.

Some students not in college-prep courses take the test. For those, 19.1 was the average score at Warren Central and 16.9 at VHS.

The state’s average score for those who had not completed college prep courses was 17.3.

“This year we’re slightly above the state’s average, which is where we anticipated we’d be,” said James Price, superintendent.

“We have Merit Scholars all the way down to people who don’t do so well,” he said “That’s why we load up on a mean score.”

Both schools were up from the 2002-2003 school year, when the averages at Warren Central were 20.3 and 19.1 and at Vicksburg High School were 20 and 15.7.

Statewide results showed an increase on 0.1 from a 19.9 score to 20.

The nationwide average composite score rose 0.1 points to 20.9 after two years at 20.8. However, that remains below the average score of 21.0 recorded by every graduating class from 1997 to 2001. The ACT is not a general knowledge test, but is designed to predict a student’s learning potential for college-level courses.

Test administrators said the increase was significant, given that a growing number of students who do not plan to attend college are taking the test and likely weighing down average scores. In Illinois and Colorado, the exam is taken by all students under a state-mandated program.

But the latest figures also reveal no progress in two key, related areas: the number of students taking a core, college-prep curriculum, and those scoring high enough on the ACT to indicate they will succeed in higher education.

“Unfortunately, the class of 2004 is no better prepared for college than the class of 2003,” said Richard L. Ferguson, chief executive of the not-for-profit ACT.

The ACT was taken by 40 percent of 2004 high school grads, or about 1.2 million people nationwide. More take the SAT, but the ACT, accepted by most colleges, is the predominant college admissions test in about half of the states.

The ACT includes English, math, reading and science sections, and next year will add an optional essay. Because it aims to measure mastery of a high school curriculum rather than general intelligence, some believe it is less “coachable” than the SAT. But many students still flock to ACT prep courses, and Princeton Review says its ACT enrollment is growing faster than for the SAT.