ACT scores rise slightly for Newton, Newton County

By DEMETRIUS THOMPSON AND STAFF REPORTS,

 The Mississippi Department of Education released on Thursday the ACT results for the 2017 graduating class, which made gains, and the spring 2017 test administration for juniors, which showed a decline.

The scores for Newton County High School and Newton High School current seniors rose from 2016 while Union High School seniors fell one  tenth of a percentage point.

The 108 Newton County seniors, who took the test when they were juniors during the 2016-17 school year, had an average composite score of 18.6, up from 18.0 last year.

The 61 Newton High School seniors who took the exam had an average composite score of 15.2, up from 14.7 last year, and the 54 Union High School seniors who took the exam had an average composite score of 19.6, only one tenth of a percentage point off from last year’s average score of 19.7. Both Union and Newton County were above the state average score of 18.

The 47 Sebastopol Attendance Center seniors who took the exam had an average composite score of 18.5, and the 52 Lake Attendance Center seniors had an average score of 17.7.

The average composite score among the graduating class increased from 18.4 in 2016 to 18.6 in 2017, and the average score among juniors decreased from 18.3 in 2016 to 18 in 2017.

For the state, the percentage of graduates meeting the benchmark scores for all four tested subjects increased from 11 percent in 2016 to 12 percent in 2017, and the percentage decreased among juniors from 11 percent to 10 percent.

There was a 5 percent increase in the number of juniors taking the ACT in 2017, while the number of test takers in the graduating class increased 1 percent. 

The graduating class saw scores increase in all four ACT subjects of English, math, reading and science. The majority of student subgroups showed improvement. In addition, an analysis by the Southern Regional Education Board found that Mississippi was one of three southern states where the achievement gap narrowed between African-American and white students.

“ACT scores among graduates are rising as more students take advantage of advanced coursework opportunities,” said Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Also, testing students in their junior year helps teachers identify students who need further support to help them achieve higher scores before they graduate.”

Starting in the 2018-19 school year, all districts will be required to offer specialized literacy and math courses designed for seniors whose junior-year ACT benchmark scores fell between 15 and 18. The courses are called the Essentials for College Literacy and the Essentials for College Math, and some districts started offering the courses in 2016.

The courses were developed specifically to help close the readiness gap for students who are on the cusp of meeting the ACT benchmark scores. The courses focus on the skills students must have to succeed in the workplace or college.

ACT research has also shown that taking certain specific courses in high school substantially increases students’ readiness for college level work as well as their readiness for workforce training programs.

Among the 36,026 2017 graduates who took the ACT, students who took four or more years of English and three or more years each of math, social studies and science outperformed their peers who reported taking fewer courses in these subjects. The average composite score among students who completed more than the required core courses was 19.7, compared to 17.4 for students who took fewer courses.

ACT is a curriculum-based assessment designed to measure the skills high school teachers teach and what instructors of entry-level college courses expect.

An ACT benchmark score is the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding credit-bearing college courses, which include English Composition, Algebra, Social Science and Biology.

The Mississippi Department of Education will continue to offer districts training related to analyzing ACT data, evaluating course taking patterns and designing ACT preparation courses.

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