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County ACT scores outpace state, national averages
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More Effingham County high school students are taking the ACT for their college entrance examinations — and their scores are outpacing those at a state and national level.

Effingham students had a composite score of 21.3 on last year’s ACT, which eclipses the state and national averages of 21. Of the state’s 179 school districts reporting ACT results, Effingham ranked 20th.

“We are certainly pleased with that,” said Superintendent Randy Shearouse.

The number of students taking the test has risen from 260 in 2014 to 353 in 2015, according to Shearouse.

“I think we’re seeing a tremendous difference in the scores we’re seeing and the number of students taking the test,” he said. “We are promoting the ACT, where we used to not do that. Some kids are just choosing to take the ACT.”

The ACT examines students’ college readiness in English, math, reading and science. Just five years ago, only 146 students in the county took the ACT. While the county composite score is down slightly from 21.4 for 2014, Effingham students have matched or surpassed the state and national averages for the last three years.

The number of students taking the two main college aptitude exams also varies by state, Shearouse pointed out. In Georgia, 70 percent of college-bound students take the SAT. In Alabama, only 7 percent take the SAT.

“In some states, a lot of kids take it; in some states, not a lot,” he said.

According to the Princeton Review, the ACT writing section is optional, though many schools require it. The ACT also offers a more comprehensive assessment of a student’s abilities. The SAT leans heavily on a student’s vocabulary strength.

The SAT has critical reading, mathematics and writing portions to its exam. There were 449 SAT takers in 2012 and the number dipped to 375 in 2014. The national average score has declined from 1509 in 2010 to 1490 in 2015. Across the state, the average SAT is 1450, down from 1453 in 2010. County SAT averages peaked at 1444 in 2014 and were 1422 in 2015. According to the College Board, which administers the SAT, more than half of all high schools can see mean score changes of at least 10 points up or down from one year to the next.

The school system also has seen the number of students enrolled in Advancement Placement classes more than double from 2010-11. Five years ago, there were 654 students in AP classes. Last year, there were 1,344. There were 339 AP exams given out in 2010-11, with 49 percent of students scoring at 3 or above — the scale maximum is 5 — and of the 816 AP tests taken last year, 47 percent of them were graded at 3 or higher.