South Carolina saw a 10 percent drop in its composite ACT score in 2016, the first year its graduating class was required to take the college entrance exam, according to a report released Wednesday. Beaufort County’s students also saw a decrease in their average score, although they fared slightly better than South Carolina overall.
The lower average scores were expected this year because more students took the test, which traditionally has been for those hoping to attend college.
The 2016 graduating class’ average composite score was 18.5, down from 20.4 in 2015. That drop is right in line with the average decrease of 1.8 points associated with mandatory participation in the test, according to the 2016 Condition of College and Career Readiness Report. The Beaufort County School District outperformed the state by 0.2 points with an average composite score of 18.7, down from 20.7 in 2015.
Taking the ACT as a junior was required for the first time for the state’s 2015-16 graduation class under a 2014 state law. In the 2015 graduating class, only 62 percent of South Carolina students took the ACT.
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The state has some catching up to do when compared to the other 19 states that require students to take the ACT. The average score among all 20 states is 19.8.
Statewide, the biggest drop in performance came in English, where only 44 percent of South Carolina students met the benchmark, down from 61 percent in 2015.
Overall, only 14 percent of students in the state met all four college readiness benchmarks — English, math, reading and science — down from 23 percent the previous year. Still, that resulted in an additional 1,369 students meeting all four benchmarks and being identified as college ready over 2015’s numbers.
There were some other encouraging results in Wednesday’s report.
For example, only 1.8 percent of black graduates last year took their first and only ACT as a senior — giving them fewer opportunities to retake the test and apply to college early — compared to 80 percent in 2008.
And many students are close to meeting the test’s benchmarks, particularly in science, where 13 percent of students missed the mark by no more than two points.
“While we know we have a ways to go to meet our vision that every South Carolina graduate is prepared for college or career upon graduation, the ACT scores released today set a benchmark that we can build upon,” state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said.
Where do South Carolina students send their ACTs?
Top 5 colleges
1. Clemson University
2. University of South Carolina
3. Coastal Carolina University
4. College of Charleston
5. Winthrop University
Top out-of-state college