The Effingham County School System saw its best-ever results on the ACT college admissions test this year, according to data provided by school officials.
Effingham County’s 2014 composite ACT score was 21.4, surpassing the previous high of 21.1 in 2010. Judith Shuman, the school district’s student and professional learning coordinator, recently presented the numbers to the Effingham County Board of Education.
Effingham’s high school students established new bests in three portions of the test: English (20.6), reading (22.2) and science (21.4).
“Those were all-time highs for each of those areas for our district on the ACT,” Shuman said.
While not a record high, the county’s math average increased as well, from 20.4 last year to 20.8 this year.
The district’s composite score of 21.4 surpassed both the state average of 20.8 and national average of 21. Effingham County High School posted its highest-ever average of 21.4, while South Effingham’s 21.5 fell just shy of its previous best of 21.9 in 2010.
Meanwhile, students across the county did not exceed the national or state averages on the SAT. The district did increase its average by 14 points from last year to 1,444, its best showing since the current SAT format was adopted in 2006.
“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” said Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff.
The state average came in just a point above the county’s at 1,445, a seven-point drop from last year. The national average declined by one point to 1,497.
Students in Effingham increased their SAT average in math by six points to 490, in critical reading by four points to 489 and in writing by four points to 465.
“The state declined or remained the same in all of those areas,” Shuman said.
ACT or SAT?
The Effingham County School System has measures in place to help students decide whether the ACT or SAT is the better test for them to take, and to prepare them for that test.
All sophomores take the PSAT in October and the ASPIRE in December. The results on those tests guide students toward choosing to take the SAT or ACT.
“By doing those in 10th grade, we think we give students an opportunity to determine which one of the tests they might best be suited to,” Shuman said. “And at that point, they can make a decision to really try to strengthen their performance in one or the other of those tests, or they may decide to pursue both of those.”
With that decision made, students may enroll in a course in 11th grade to prepare for either test. Or students could choose to take neither, opting instead for the COMPASS test for technical college placement.
Effingham County experienced a “dramatic increase” in students taking the ACT, Shuman said, from 147 in 2011 to 261 the following year. That number remained steady at 260 this year.
One reason for the recent increase is students now can take the ACT once a year at their school. The test will be given on-campus this school year on April 28, 2015.
“They offer one day of the year that our students can actually take the ACT during a school day, rather than having to come on a Saturday morning to take the test,” Shuman said.
While the number of ACT takers has remained essentially the same for the past three years, SAT participation declined slightly. This year, 375 graduating seniors took the SAT, down from 405 last year.
Arnsdorff pointed out that school officials sometimes hear concerns about aspects of the school system’s curriculum, particularly the “expectation to increase rigor.” He surmised that the higher scores, along with the measures to help students choose which college admissions test to take, show the district is on the right track.
“If you use this as one barometer,” Arnsdorff said, “I think you have to at least consider that the decisions made as the district level that support teaching and learning undoubtedly must be in the right direction.”