Increases in ACT scores at two of Bartow County's three high schools boosted the system's overall score this year while Cartersville saw a slight decrease in its composite score.
Both systems, however, continue to hover around the state and national averages.
Released Oct. 30 by the Georgia Department of Education, scores for the Class of 2019 rose 1.1 points for Adairsville High and 0.4 points for Woodland High and dropped 0.1 point for Cass High, giving Bartow County an increase of 0.4 points overall, and Cartersville's score decreased 0.4 points from last year.
Students who take the national college admissions exam between 10th and 12th grades are tested in four content areas — English, math, reading and science — and those four scores are averaged together for their composite score. All scores range from 1 (low) to 36 (high).
Bartow County's average composite score for its 306 test-takers was 20.4, up from the previous year's score of 20 but below the state average of 21.4 and the national average of 20.7.
"It’s always exciting to see growth in any measure of student achievement," Superintendent Dr. Phillip Page said. "Our composite score, as well as all four average content scores, are the highest we’ve seen since 2015. Our teachers, counselors and parents have done a remarkable job supporting, encouraging and preparing our students through resources such as ACT Academy. It shows that we have prepared our students to be competitive throughout the college application process and beyond."
Overall, the system's average content scores were 19.8 for English, 19.3 for math, 21.5 for reading and 20.5 for science.
"I was very pleased to see our highest average content scores since 2015," Page said. "It’s encouraging to read, especially since state and national scores either remained the same or dropped since 2018."
The 63 test-takers at Adairsville earned a 20.2 score, up from the 2018 score of 19.1, while the score for the 111 Woodland students who took the exam was 20.9, up from last year's 20.5. Cass' 132 test-takers scored 20 this year, just slightly lower than 2018's score of 20.1.
Adairsville Principal Bruce Mulkey was pleased that his school saw an increase — the largest in the county — in this year's scores.
"We still have room for growth, but I am proud of the results that we're seeing in all areas of accountability," he said. "The results are a product of the hard work of our staff and our students."
Mulkey attributed the school's higher scores to an additional class now being offered.
"No doubt, the ACT/SAT prep class that we added as an elective is ensuring that our students are better prepared to be successful on these exams," he said.
The score of 20.7 for Cartersville's 186 test-takers fell just short of the system's 2018 score of 21.1 and was below this year's state average — it was, however, on par with the national average — but district leaders aren't concerned about the slight decrease.
"Overall, we are pleased with our students' results on the ACT," Director of Strategic Planning and School Improvement Floyd Braid said. "Our composite score was slightly lower this year compared to the previous year, but it is expected that there will be slight variations in scores from year to year."
The system's scores in the four content areas were 19.8 for English, 20.4 for math, 21.4 for reading and 20.7 for science.
"Based on the current data provided by ACT, we saw an increase in the number of students that met the benchmark in reading and English," Braid said. "However, we saw a slight decrease in the number of students that met the benchmark for science and math."
He also said district leaders were "happy" that CHS students "continued to score at or above the national average in all content areas."
Both school systems saw fewer students in the Class of 2019 taking the ACT than the previous class — 27 fewer in Bartow and nine fewer in Cartersville — but there's no cause for alarm, according to district leaders.
"We are not concerned that fewer students took the ACT last [school] year," Braid said. "Cartersville High School students take the ACT or the SAT to assess their readiness for college. From year to year, the number of students who take these assessments varies. This year, 186 students took the ACT, which is just below last year's number of 195 but above the three-year average of 180. "
Page said he's also not concerned about the small dip in the number of test-takers.
"Many students, due to financial reasons, choose to take only one assessment," he said.
A couple of things are happening in the Bartow system that should increase future scores on college admission exams, Page said.
"The foundation we, as a system, laid last year through professional learning communities will increase rigor in all classrooms and increase future SAT and ACT scores," he said. "[And] access and equity in education are important. Our counselors work very hard with our students to provide them free online tools. When used with fidelity, statistics show those resources can increase composite scores significantly."
Cartersville's means of preparing students for the exam falls along the same lines as Bartow County's.
"The ACT assessment assesses students' knowledge of what they should have learned in their high school classes," Braid said. "So providing high-quality instruction and ongoing supports for our students is the most important thing we do to prepare them for the ACT. However, we have also offered voluntary ACT preparatory classes for our students."
At the state level, Georgia's average composite score of 21.4 remained the same as last year but eclipsed the national average of 20.7 for the fourth consecutive year and the fourth time in state history, according to a news release.
For the content areas, Georgia once again outperformed the nation in English (20.9 versus 20.1 nationally), math (20.7 versus 20.4 nationally), reading (22.2 versus 21.2 nationally) and science (21.2 versus 20.6 nationally).
Overall, Georgia tied for 23rd in the nation on the ACT, up from 24th last year.
"I'm extremely proud of our Georgia students – and the educators who prepare them each day – for beating the nation on the ACT once again," State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in the release. "I want to emphasize that this is only the fourth time in state history this has been accomplished. While there is still work to be done to ensure we are offering a well-rounded education and preparing every child for their next steps after high school, Georgia's students and teachers continue to achieve unprecedented success."