South Carolina’s public high school graduates matched last year’s scores on the college entrance exam known as the A-C-T. The A-C-T is similar to the S-A-T in that it is taken by students preparing to enter college.But Pete Pillow with Department of Education Communications says this year his department asked the A-C-T officials to present the scores with private schools listed separately, even though they have been lumped together in the past. Pillow says the results were interesting, indicating that the 13.5 percent of the state’s students in non-public education had a smaller gain in their test scores than did those in public education.
“What we’ve found is that the public school students have out-stripped the national gains over the last five years,” said Pillow. “South Carolina’s gains were four to one in some cases. But we’re not where we want to be yet.”
Eight South Carolina students had perfect scores on the test this year.
The 2009 average score for all South Carolina seniors was 19.8 on the A-C-T’s 36-point scale, down a tenth of a percentage point from last year’s score, which was the state’s highest score to date. Pillow says that small decrease in performance was on the part of the non-public school students.
The national average was 21.1 percent, the same as the previous year.
Pillow explains the difference between the A-C-T and the S-A-T. “The A-C-T is more a curriculum-based exam, measuring more of what is taught in school. The S-A-T predicts how well you’ll do in college.”
One-tenth of an ACT point is comparable to four points on the S-A-T.
Pillow says there were gains in English but the biggest gains were in math and science. “Those are really good because typically we consider people to be a little weaker in math and science. Our math and science gains are above the reading and English gains. And that’s important because we know now that how well you do in math and science indicates how well you’ll do at earning a living.”
Pillow says 2300 more students took the test in South Carolina last year than this year, and considering the stability of the A-C-T scores, that speaks well for the education system. A-C-T officials say a growth in student participation is usually accompanied by a downturn in scores, which has not happened in South Carolina. “Generally what happens is the more students take a test, the harder it is to maintain improvements and you may see scores go down a little. What we’ve seen is five years of scores going up, even though the number of people taking the A-C-T has gone up most years, substantially some years.”
The A-C-T is the predominant college entrance exam in about half of the states, while the S-A-T dominates the other half. The A-C-T is now required for admission by most colleges and universities. Almost 64 percent of South ?Carolina’s A-C-T-tested public school graduates took the test.