The Barrow County School System’s graduating classes of 2020 earned an average composite score of 19.8 on the ACT — more than a half-point increase over the 19.2 average score for the class of 2019 — and saw gains across all four subject areas of the test, even though the district continued to trail the state and national averages, according to data released this week by the Georgia Department of Education.
The annual ACT report includes scores from that year’s high school graduates who took the test at some point in grades 10-12. The ACT measures what students learn in high school to determine readiness for college and consists of curriculum-based tests in English, mathematics, reading and science, which measure skills needed for increased chances of success in first-year college coursework. The test uses a scoring scale of 1-36 for all four sections and overall.
Twenty percent of Barrow’s ACT test-takers for the class of 2020 met the College Readiness benchmarks in all four subject areas — compared to 30 percent statewide and 26 percent nationally. Those numbers (18 for English, 22 for math, 22 for reading and 23 in science) represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50-percent chance of obtaining a grade of “B” or higher and a 75-percent chance of having a “C” or higher in corresponding first-year courses in college, according to a report by ACT administrators.
Administrators recommended that states and school districts place a heavier emphasis on the percentage of students who meet and exceed benchmarks, rather than composite scores. To improve those percentages, they recommended that Georgia:
•ensure testing access for all students.
•make core curriculum a priority.
•make sure students are taking the right kinds of courses.
•evaluate the rigor of courses.
•plan guidance activities based on students’ career and college aspirations.
School district officials were encouraged that Barrow saw gains in each subject area — including almost a full point in the reading portion of the test.
“We attribute our progress relating to the ACT to our consistent approach over the last five years in how we counsel students on when the right time to test really is. Students truly need to be through both Algebra II and Chemistry before taking this particular college entrance exam,” Apalachee High School principal Jennifer Martin said in a district news release. “In the past, some of our students were taking it too early in an effort to get a baseline for their achievement, however, this approach is not appropriate for this particular test. Our focus on when to take the test has truly improved how students have performed.”
Barrow County’s 2020 composite score of 19.8 came in behind the state average of 21 (which increased from 21.4 in 2019) and the national average of 20.6. The average score for each section was also behind the state and national averages — 18.4 in English, compared to 21.3 for the state and 19.9 across the U.S.; 19.2 in math, compared to 21 statewide and 20.2 nationally; 20.8 in reading, compared to 22.5 and 21.2; and 20.2 in science, compared to 21.6 and 20.6.
Average scores for Winder-Barrow and Apalachee high schools in area were:
•English — WBHS 18.4, AHS 17.9.
•math — WBHS 19.2, AHS 18.9.
•reading — WBHS 20.8, AHS 20.5.
•science — WBHS 20.2, AHS 20.
•composite — WBHS 19.8, AHS 19.5.