ACT scores continue to creep up in Beaufort County

Beaufort County students' scores on the 2010 ACT college-entrance exam increased for the third consecutive year and again exceeded the state average, but only one local high school fared better than the national average.

Hilton Head Island High School students who took the ACT scored, on average, 23.2, which was 0.3 points higher than in 2009. That also was 3.2 points above the 2010 state average and 2.2 points above the national average of 21.

Bluffton High School, at 20.8, and Beaufort High School, at 20.3, exceeded the state average, but Battery Creek's average, at 17.7, though 0.1 point higher than 2009, still trailed the state score.The ACT assesses high school students' general educational development and ability to complete college-level work through multiple-choice tests covering four subjects: English, math, reading and science. A writing test, which is optional, measures skill in planning and writing a short essay.

The ACT is the predominant college entrance exam in about half the states across the country, according to the organization's website, while the College Board's SAT dominates the other half. All South Carolina colleges and universities accept either ACT or SAT scores for admission, according to the state Department of Education. The SAT, though, is South Carolina's most popular college entrance-exam.

More than 300 students of the 2010 public high school graduating class in the Beaufort County School District took the test, scoring an average of 20.7 on the ACT's 36-point scale -- up half a point from last year -- according to data released todayby the S.C. Department of Education.

"We may not be at the national average in all areas, but we have made significant gains since 2008, where we were below the state and national average in many areas," said Sean Alford, chief instructional officer for the district. "If we can have another year like we had this year, I believe that next year you'll see a greater amount of data points where we surpass the national average."

Alford said scores rose because teachers incorporate SAT and ACT test preparation into their daily instruction and because schools offer test-preparation workshops. Also, county high schools last year began using a Web-based program aimed at boosting entrance-exam scores. The online study program pinpoints students' weaknesses and provides remedial lessons and quizzes.

Alford also credited collaborative efforts by teachers to standardize curriculum across the district.

"We're not satisfied, but pleased to see that we are turning in a positive direction," Alford said. "We do realize that not everyone is at the level of expectations we have."