2008 High School Seniors Record South Carolina’s Highest-Ever ACT Score

August 12, 2008

COLUMBIA, SC – August 13, 2008 – South Carolina’s 2008 high school graduates showed improved performance on the ACT college entrance exam for a fifth straight year and achieved the highest average scores ever recorded for the state, the testing company reported today.

The 2008 average composite score for Palmetto State seniors was 19.9 on the ACT’s 36-point scale, up from 19.6 last year and continuing the improvement trend from 2004.  The national average was 21.1, one-tenth of a point below last year.  (ACT considers a change of three-tenths of a point to be statistically significant; one-tenth of an ACT point is comparable to four points on the SAT.) 

State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said South Carolina’s high school seniors not only continue to show steady progress, but also are
improving their scores at a faster rate.   

“The national composite score has fluctuated over the past five years compared to our steady increases,” Rex said. “Our score is up six-tenths of a point over five years, and we achieved half of that gain this year.  I said before that we needed to improve at a faster rate to be competitive.  That’s exactly what we’ve done.”

Rex said South Carolina’s overall gain in scores since 2004 is triple the national two-tenths of a point increase during the same time.
“Now that we’ve built up this momentum, it would be a shame to
have it blunted by impending budget cuts,” he said.   

The State Department of Education has unsuccessfully sought funding to expand ACT participation for high school students.  Five states – Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Wyoming – are paying ACT costs for all 11th graders as a way to boost college readiness.

Although the SAT is still South Carolina’s most popular college-entrance exam, the ACT’s student share has been growing.  The number of ACT test-takers in the Palmetto State dipped by 200 students last year, but still has increased nearly 25 percent since 2004.
Forty-four percent of the state’s 2008 high school graduates – 16,521 students – took the test at some point in their high school careers.
Nationwide ACT results are based on more than 1.4 million participants.

The newly released ACT scores are from students who graduated in 2008, regardless of the year when their most recent scores were recorded.  The ACT includes four tests: English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning.  Scores are reported in each of those as well as the overall

South Carolina seniors improved on all four ACT subtests.  Math showed the biggest increase, from 2007’s average of 19.8 to 20.1 in 2008.
The math gain of 1.1 points over the past five years leads the state’s parade of subtest improvements.  Reading is up six-tenths of a point,
while English and science are up one-half point in five years.        

Average ACT composite scores for South Carolina’s white students increased two-tenths of a point to 21.7 in the 2008 report; African-American students’ average scores went up one-tenth to 16.4.
Male students outperformed females by two-tenths of a point nationally and by a tenth of a point in the Palmetto State. 

South Carolina students who took the core academic cours es recommended by ACT had an average score of 20.4 for 2008.  Those who did not take the core courses scored an average of 18.1, more than two points lower.

The ACT’s recommended core courses include the following:
 – Four years of English.
 – Three or more years of mathematics, including Algebra I and II and Geometry.
 – Three or more years of social studies, including American history and government and world history.
 – Three or more years of natural sciences, such as general, physical and earth science, biology, chemistry and physics.

Results from an optional ACT writing test that began in February 2005 were reported for the third time this year.  Although it’s not required for admission by most colleges and universities, nearly 62 percent of South Carolina’s ACT-tested 2008 graduates took this test.

Their average score was 6.7 on a 12-point scale, unchanged from last year.  The national writing score was 7.6, down three-tenths of a point.

The ACT is the predominant college entrance exam in half of the states, while the College Board’s SAT dominates the other half.  The ACT is a test of curriculum-based and classroom-based achievement, while the SAT is an implied learning test that measures how students think based on their experiences both in and out of the classroom setting.

The percentage of 2008 ACT-tested graduates in states ranges from a high of 100% to lows of 9% in Maine and 10% in Rhode Island.  Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia had a lower percentage of students
tested than South Carolina’s figure of 44%.    

All South Carolina colleges and universities accept either ACT or SAT scores for admission. The top five South Carolina universities receiving scores from ACT test-takers were the University of South Carolina (Columbia), Clemson, College of Charleston, Winthrop and Coastal Carolina.  Seventy-eight percent of the state’s ACT participants said they hope to earn a two-year degree or higher in their postsecondary career. Their most popular field for majors is health science and allied health fields and business/management.