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Systems ACT, SAT scores dip slightly
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There were minor decreases in the systemwide SAT average and ACT average from 2007 to 2008, as test scores at Effingham County High School improved.

“We are held accountable for lots of different things — some greater than others — but one that the general populous looks at very carefully are the results from some of the national tests,” Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff said.

Arnsdorff said the ACT is designed to measure “general educational development and capacity for college level work.”

The ACT has sections on English, math, reading and science, with scores ranging from 1 to 36.

About 38 percent of Georgia’s high school seniors took the ACT this year, and Effingham’s system scores continue to remain in approximately the 20 range for composite score.

“We did have more students (to take the) test this year,” Arnsdorff said.

Arnsdorff said that students use online recourses to see how they compare to others who took the test, but there are general guides to look at. He said students who score a 20-23 would be considered to be in the top 50 percent of the class and admitted to traditional colleges. Students who have scores ranging from 22-27 would be considered in the top 25 percent and admitted to selective colleges. Students with a score above 27 would be considered to be in the top 10 percent of their class and admitted to highly selective colleges.

“We continue to work to encourage students to consider which test is more appropriate for their educational future, whether it be the COMPASS test if you are considering technical college, is it the ACT or the SAT, and our schools are working in varying degrees to council students in that regard,” he said. “And I think that’s why you see the numbers increasing in the students who are taking the ACT.”

He told board of education members the SAT scores are reported to the board, but the system has little control over those test results.

“Students take the SAT when they choose to,” Arnsdorff said. “They register on their own at home, whatever year they want to take it. They can take it in the eighth grade or the 11th grade. They can take it one time or five times. We get reports as students self report. If they pick the wrong school, that score goes to that school, whether it’s right or wrong.”

He said the system currently has preliminary information. Data on the students who took the test, how many times they took it and their best scores will be determined when the schools receive more information.

Arnsdorff explained that students had 25 minutes on the SAT writing portion to construct a draft and a response to the question, “are people’s actions motivated primarily by a desire for power over others?”

“What students have to do is not only digest and begin to build their own beliefs about the quotation,” Arnsdorff said, “they have to synthesize and put into place those critical thinking skills, ‘what do I know from current events, from literature, from history, from science, from all the different things I’ve been exposed to. Are there any examples, which would support the development of my essay?’ That’s where we think our students may be having some difficulty.”

The system is offering SAT prep courses and working to include strategies needed for the writing test in English classes. Changes in the graduation rule also will impact the scores.

“By 2012, the new ninth grade graduation rule will require that all students have four years of math and science, regardless of any type of plan you have for the future,” Arnsdorff said. “There is an expectation of rigor for all students. We believe that coupled with the GPS, we will continue to see some improvements.”

Board member Troy Alford wanted to know what could be done to encourage students to take the SAT prep course.

“Students who have gone through our school system have gone anywhere in their profession,” he said. “I’m talking about kids who have graduated in the last eight or 10 years. I think our school system teaching-wise, administratively, is doing a phenomenal job, as we have all stated before. This is not something that’s going to go away. It’s here to stay.”

Arnsdorff said the system continues to work with staff members so the advisement plan is in place to help students take the tests that will help them to reach their goals.

He added that when the University of Georgia comes to talk about admissions to students they say the test is fine, but they look at the number of Advanced Placement courses students take first.

“We’re going to stack up our transcripts based on the number of AP courses you have, and the rigor of the courses is what makes the difference for us,” he said.

Arnsdorff said board members have allowed the system to double the amount of AP courses offered.

“That’s an additional financial burden,” he said, “but it’s a burden that allows our students to have the opportunities to choose the university they seek.”