ACT Scores Dip for FCHS Students

FAIRFIELD – Fairfield Central High School students taking the American College Testing (ACT) exam in 2013 saw their scores drop somewhat over 2012 scores, with mean scores still falling below the “College Readiness Benchmark” set by the exam.

Composite scores fell to 15.9 in 2013, down from 16.2 in 2012. The number of students taking the exam was also down from 110 in 2012 to 76 in 2013. In 2011, 102 Fairfield Central High School students took the test.

In the English portion of the exam, mean scores edged down to 14.2 in 2013, form 14.4 in 2012. The College Readiness Benchmark in English is 18. In mathematics, mean scores slipped to 16.5 in 2013, from 16.9 in 2012. The benchmark for mathematics is 22. Science mean scores were also down slightly, to 16.5 in 2013 from 16.6 in 2012. The science benchmark is 23. Reading scores held steady at 16.2, but were still off the benchmark of 22.

“We have a lot of students taking the ACT who are not taking the coursework to prepare themselves to be successful,” J.R. Green, Superintendent of Fairfield County Schools said. “But we don’t discourage them from taking the test.”

Green said the 76 students tested represent about half of the senior class, a relatively large number compared to other school districts and other states. At least nine states, Green said, test 100 percent of their seniors, and their composite scores reflect that negatively. In Mississippi, for example, all seniors are tested, and the state ranks at the bottom of the nation in composite scores. Massachusetts, meanwhile, is at the top, but only tests 23 percent of its seniors.

The ACT is not a required test, and is an alternative to the SAT for students trying to get into a four-year college. Students who will enter a technical school, a two-year school, the military or join the workforce right out of high school would have no reason to take the ACT. But for students who are aiming for a four-year college, Green said the District will have to get them better prepared to take the exam.

“Moving forward, we will look at doing a more effective job of getting kids prepared to take the ACT,” Green said.

That may include adding an elective ACT/SAT prep course for Fairfield students in 2014, Green said, and ensuring that all students who are planning on taking those exams go through the course, which would include multiple sample tests. Green said the District will also encourage students to take the exam more than once in an effort to boost their scores.

“We have a lot of students who took it one time, didn’t do well and never took it again,” Green said.

The national composite score for the 2013 ACT was 20.9, down from 21.1 in 2012. Statewide, the composite for public school students was 20.1, up from 19.9 in 2012 (the ACT does not separate public schools from private/charter schools on national averages). National English scores were down to 20.2 in 2013, from 20.5 in 2012. State English scores were up slightly, to 19.3 in 2013 from 19.1 in 2012. Math scores were also down nationwide to 20.9 in 2013 from 21.1 in 2012. In South Carolina, math scores for public school students remained at 20.1. Reading scores were also down nationwide, to 21.1 in 2013 from 21.3 in 2012. Statewide, reading scores were up to 20.5 in 2013 from 20.1 in 2012. National science scores also fell, to 20.7 in 2013 from 20.9 in 2012, while in South Carolina, those score were up to 20.1 from 19.9 for public school students.

“We will commit ourselves to doing a better job preparing our students,” Green said, “but if we continue to encourage everyone to take the ACT, regardless of whether or not they’ve taken the appropriate prep courses, that will continue to adversely affect our composite scores.”