Beaufort County students' scores on the 2013 ACT college-entrance exam rose, lifting the district above the state average and closer to the national benchmark.
Jasper County students' scores, however, remained largely unchanged for a third consecutive year and ranked among the lowest in the state.
The Beaufort County district's average score among 2013 graduates was 20.8, up nearly a point on a 36-point scale from 2012. That's better than the state average for public-school students -- which improved slightly from 19.9 to 20.1 -- but shy of the national average by one-tenth of a point.
"Our goal is to prepare students to be successful after high school," Beaufort County School District superintendent Jeffrey Moss said, "and for students whose plans include a four-year college, ACT and SAT scores are important benchmarks."
The ACT is composed of four multiple-choice tests -- English, math, reading and science -- designed to gauge students' general knowledge and college preparedness. The other national college-entrance exam, the SAT, is taken more frequently by state high school students, but all S.C. universities' admissions offices accept either test.
Only 431 Beaufort County seniors took the ACT this year, up from 382 last year. In a news release, district officials noted that typically an increase in test-takers is accompanied by a downturn in scores.
Students at Battery Creek High School and Whale Branch Early College High School again had the lowest average scores among district seniors -- 18.8 and 15.4, respectively.
Students at Hilton Head Island High School again scored the highest -- an average of 23.4. Both Hilton Head and Bluffton high schools exceeded the national average of 20.9, which dropped from 21.1 in 2012.
Beaufort High School had 143 senior test-takers -- more than any other district school -- and scores rose three-tenths of a point in 2013 to 20.5.
High school principals said this year's improvement was encouraging, after seeing scores decline ever so slightly last year for the second consecutive year.
Moss singled out Bluffton High, noting the school recorded a second straight year of gains, while doubling the number of students taking the test over the past four years.
The school pushes every student to take a version of the ACT each year, said principal Mark Dievendorf, and this year, H.E. McCracken Middle School students will take the ACT EXPLORE test geared toward eighth- and ninth-graders. McCracken is a feeder school for Bluffton High.
In addition to increasing students' familiarity with the test, the high school receives detailed breakdowns of each student's performance, which teachers have used to develop intervention plans for "at-risk" test-takers, Dievendorf said.
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- Beaufort County students' ACT scores dip slightly: Aug. 22, 2012
- ACT scores dip slightly in Beaufort County: Aug. 17, 2011
The dataMean composite scores by school:
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