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ACT scores on the rise, SAT scores stable
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Effingham County students are scoring better on the ACT and their SAT scores have remained stable, according to schools curriculum coordinator Judith Shuman.

As more students take the ACT, the average score has increased. In 2003, the average ACT score for the system was 18.5 and 61 students took the test. In 2009, the average score was 20.6 and 148 students took the ACT.

Shuman noted that with the exception of 2006, when there was a significant increase in the SAT scores, the system’s average has remained stable and is closing in on the state average. The system has not dropped below the scores in 2005.

“Both of them are primarily used for college admissions purposes,” Shuman said, “but they are distinct in their own separate respects.”

The ACT has four exams — English, reading, mathematics and science. They are scored on a scale of 0-36, and the student receives a composite score that is an average of those four scores.

The SAT has three sections — critical reading, mathematics and writing. The writing section was added about four years ago.

“Currently many colleges are not using the writing portion for admission purposes, but we are hearing unofficial word that that may become an admissions tool in the near future,” Shuman said.

Each section is scored on a scale of 200-800, with a maximum score of 2400.

Shuman said there was a letter from the College Board clarifying the way in which the SAT scores should be used.

“Certain states have different characteristics and different numbers of participants, which makes a difference,” she said. “Here they tell us that average SAT scores are not appropriate for state comparison because the percentage of SAT takers varies widely among states. In some states, a very small percentage of the college-bound seniors take the SAT. Typically, these students have strong academic backgrounds and are applicants to the nation’s most selective colleges. It is expected that the SAT averages reported for these states will be higher than the national average.”

In Georgia, the SAT is the predominant test taken, according to Shuman. She said any time a new component, such as the writing portion, is added, it tends to be the most difficult to grasp.

“We are pleased to say that we have made significant progress,” she said, “even though we may have room to grow left with the writing piece. We have moved up 11 points on that test this year where the state took a drop and the nation took a drop as well.

“We’re managing to find out what our students need in terms of skills to do well on that test and continue to help them improve with that.”

The College Board, which administers the SAT, found that the writing section is the “most predictive of academic success in college,” Shuman said.

The writing portion is very difficult, she said. Students are required to write a piece on a prompt in 30 minutes.

Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff said the system offers classes to help students prepare for the SAT if they want to take the course, and the state offers an online preparation program that can be accessed any time.

He also said the system does not have control over the test. Any student can sign up for the test at any time.

Shuman said statistics have shown that students who access the online program have an average score that is 48 points higher than those who do not. She said the scores they are given are a senior’s most recent score. That does not mean it is the best score.

“It is very possible that a child could have had a much better posting on a previous test as often occurs,” she said. “But that is not represented in these averages that we see here, so they can give us consistent averages nationwide.”