By the numbers

The ACT is a college entrance exam made up of tests in four subjects — English, math, reading and science reasoning. Those scores are combined for a composite score on a 36-point scale. The following are local public schools’ and district’s composite scores. Not every student is required to take the exams. Some schools have as few as 10 test takers (Lincoln High) while others have as many as 409 (Wando).

District/School 2012 2013

Charleston District 20.5 21.1

Baptist Hill 15.2 13.7

North Charleston 14.3 16.4

Garrett Academy 15.7 15.2

Burke 14.8 16.7

Lincoln n/a 13.0

Wando 22.7 22.3

Military Magnet 15.9 14.3

St. John’s 15.4 15.4

Stall 16.0 16.0

School of the Arts 23.7 23.8

Academic Magnet 28.0 28.7

West Ashley 18.1 17.7

James Island Charter 20.5 20.3

Chas. Charter for M&S 17.7 20.5

Berkeley District 19.4 19.5

Stratford 21.5 20.9

Berkeley 19.2 19.2

Cross 16.2 16.5

Goose Creek 18.7 18.6

Hanahan 19.7 20.6

Timberland 17.6 18.3

Cane Bay 19.7 19.4

Middle College 21.3 22.8

Dorchester 2 District 21.0 21.2

Summerville 21.6 21.4

Fort Dorchester 20.1 20.3

Ashley Ridge 21.6 22.1

Dorchester 4 District

Woodland 17.0 17.1

State 19.9 20.1

Source: S.C. Dept. of Education

Lowcountry school districts followed the statewide trend of better scores on the ACT college entrance exam, according to figures released Wednesday.

The state’s score for public school students saw a 0.2-point gain for an average score of 20.1 on the 36-point scale. Although South Carolina still fell short of the national average of 20.9, the state’s students narrowed that gap this year, and saw the biggest gains on their reading test.

“While nationwide assessments continue to show a reading gap between South Carolina and the nation, it is encouraging to see the gap is closing,” said S.C. Superintendent of Education Mick Zais. “We must continue to address reading gaps because reading is fundamental to everything else in a student’s education. If students cannot read, they will not succeed in school.”

He used the scores to reiterate his plea to the state Senate to support legislation that would prevent students from being passed at third grade if they can’t read on grade level.

The ACT is made of four subtests: English, math, reading and science reasoning. The test scores released today are from students who graduated in 2013, regardless of when they took the exam.

The school districts in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties saw higher composite scores on the exam. The district that saw the biggest gains was Charleston County, which saw a 0.6-point bump in its score to 21.1. That’s better than the state average and just 0.1 point shy of Dorchester 2, which typically has the best scores among local districts.

“I’m always happy about positive movement, but I don’t get excited about one single data point,” said Charleston County Superintendent Nancy McGinley. “Data is a snapshot in time, so what I like to look at is patterns.”

McGinley said she would like to compare these scores to those on the exit exams, which have been released, as well as graduation rates and end-of-course exams, which haven’t yet.

Virginia Reijners, the district’s director of career and technology education, attributed some of the score improvement to better post-secondary preparation efforts. The district has invested in literacy and numeracy programs, and students also have benefited from a federal Advanced Placement Incentives Program grant intended to get them ready for AP courses, she said.

“The kind of preparation they’re doing will have benefits beyond AP exams,” she said.

Charleston and Dorchester 2 had all of its juniors take the ACT this past spring. Sean Alford, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in Dorchester 2, said the district wants to make sure every student is prepared for college or career, and the district-wide emphasis on the exam helped translate into gains.

The district also worked with its high school teachers to align their instruction with the exam, he said.

“It’s really a comprehensive effort to use ACT as another accountability measure,” he said.

Although the number of students taking the ACT fell statewide this year, an increasing number of students took the test during the previous five years. The ACT measures academic skills that students learn in school, while the SAT college entrance exam evaluates how students think.

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.