Area's ACT scores remain above average

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Jackson High School 2008 graduates showed slight gains on the ACT college admissions test, posting the highest average score in at least the past five years.

Scores dropped at Central High School but are still almost a full point above the state average. At both schools, the number of students taking the test increased.

"We had 27 more students take it this past school year than the year before. Simultaneously, as greater numbers take the test, it becomes exceptionally difficult to continue that same high score," said Central principal Dr. Mike Cowan. Still, Cowan said, "I feel very positive. I am very proud of that number."

At Central, the composite score was 22.5, down from 23.2. Jackson students bumped their score from 22.5 to 22.6. Statewide, students averaged 21.6.

ACT scores have been a source of pride for Central, especially after being recognized by ACT for "academic rigor" in 2007. The school was one of eight schools in Missouri selected. After taking certain math and science classes, students scored higher on those sections of the test than others did nationally.

However, the results show a gap in performance among subgroups of students. While the ACT scores are higher than the state and national average, it does not take into account 27 percent of Central High School's graduating class who did not take the exam. On the Missouri Assessment Program test, given to all students under No Child Left Behind, the total student body received passing marks last year but black students and low-income students did not. Similar gaps are seen in Jackson.

Cowan has long argued the MAP test should be replaced with the ACT. He called it a "tragic flaw" that the state did not decide to do so in 2006. Instead, end-of-course exams will be administered beginning this spring. Cowan said the ACT would have been more reputable and that students would have had a greater desire to perform well on it.

Both Cape Girardeau and Jackson offer ACT test preparation courses. Rick McClard, former principal of Jackson High School, said that about 100 students take the class each year, or about a third of the total number of students who take the test.

"We are pleased with the number of students that have taken the test this year and that we are continuing to achieve above the state average," said assistant superintendent Dr. Rita Fisher.

335-6611, extension 123

Average ACT scores for 2008 graduates by subject

English, Math,Reading,Science

Cape Girardeau22.5, 22.1, 22.4, 22.3

Jackson22.1, 22.5, 22.9, 22.5

State21.4, 21, 22, 21.4

Composite ACT scores over a three-year period

2006, 2007, 2008

Cape Girardeau23.5, 23.2, 22.5

Jackson22.3, 22.5, 22.6

State21.6, 21.6, 21.6

Source: Cape Girardeau and Jackson school districts, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, ACT Inc.

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