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Overall ACT scores below state, nation

COVINGTON — Overall, high school students in the Newton County School System are performing below state and national averages on the ACT. Eastside High School was the only school to score above the state levels and, in some cases, at the national level.

The average composite score of the 582 NCSS students who took the ACT, or the American College Test college entrance exam, for the 2009-10 school year was 18.9. In Georgia, the average score was 20.7, and nationally it was 21, according to results released by NCSS and the Georgia Department of Education last week.

2009-10 ACT Scores

Area # Tested English Math Reading Science Composite

Alcovy High School 183 17.8 18.7 19.1 19.4 18.9

Eastside High School 155 20.6 20.3 20.9 20.9 20.8

Newton High School 243 16.8 17.6 17.8 18.3 17.8

Challenge Charter Academy 1 14 16 13 13 14

NCSS 582 18.1 18.7 19 19.3 18.9

Georgia 39,436 20.1 20.7 20.9 20.5 20.7

Nation 1,568,835 20.5 21 21.3 20.9 21

Source: Newton County School System

"Georgia continues to see a steady rise in ACT scores, even when the national average score declined," said Gov. Sonny Perdue in a press release from the GaDOE. "I'm especially proud that the curriculum enhancements that Georgia has instituted are resulting in more of our students meeting the ACT standard of college and career readiness."

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test designed to measure college readiness and preparation, generally taken by students during their junior and senior years of high school. The ACT includes four separate exams in English, reading, mathematics and science. There is also an optional writing portion. The exam is scored on a scale from 0 to 36.

"There's good news and not-so-good news in our 2010 ACT results," said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews in a press release. "The good news is 83 more students took the ACT in 2010 when compared to 2009. The not-so-good news is we experienced declines in English, reading, math and composite scores, while science remained the same, as we trail both the state and nation."

Overall, Alcovy High School's 183 test-takers scored 18.9 as a composite average, Eastside High's 155 test-takers scored 20.8 and Newton High's 243 test-takers scored 17.8.

"I am extremely proud of our Eastside students," said EHS Principal Dennis Roddenberry in the press release. "Their performance on the 2010 ACT provided concrete evidence that the students have made gains in several areas over the previous year's results. In comparison to the data from 2009, we were fortunate to see percentage gains in every category."

Their results equaled or surpassed the state of Georgia average in all but one area, math. In English, the students scored above the nation, and in science, they equaled the nation's results.

"We are happy with the results, but are aware that we have much work to do," Roddenberry said. "Our goal is to demonstrate student mastery in all categories assessed."

The number of students taking the test at Alcovy and Newton high schools also continues to increase.

"It indicates that students are receiving more exposure to a variety of assessments as well as they are researching, investigating and participating in several different forums as a way to be exposed to secondary institutions of learning," said LaQuanda Brown, principal of Alcovy High School, in the press release.

However, scores at all levels, and therefore overall, were below the state and national averages. Some areas also dropped from last school year.

"By continuing to promote a more rigorous curriculum, the students at Newton High will not only see their scores on exams such as the ACT improve, but they will be better prepared for the college or university of their choice," said NHS Principal Roderick Sams in the press release.

Sams said on Monday that a combination of high student population, 2,001 as of Monday, and more encouragement to take the ACT could result in more students taking the test than last school year, when 192 Newton High students took the test.

"We do encourage students to take college entrance exams, such as the ACT, more than we have in the past," he said. "We are also encouraging more students to take (Advanced Placement) courses as well."

Mathews plans to have conversations with the high school principals, teachers and others to gain their insight into the test results.

"For if we keep on doing the same things, we'll keep on getting the same results," Mathews said. "The five-year trend for the system ... is not the direction we can continue if we're to serve our students well. As with (Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests) and (the Georgia High School Graduation Tests), we have work to do."

This fall, ACT will issue a report that examines the current status of college and career readiness in the U.S. based on the Common Core State Standards.