Students in South Carolina’s class of 2017 scored slightly better on a college readiness test than students the year before, according to ACT’s annual Condition of College and Career Readiness Report, released early today.
This year’s graduates had an ACT average composite score of 18.7, up two-tenths of a point from 2016 but more than two points below the national average of 21.0 on the 36-point scale.
"ACT’s annual College and Career Readiness report is one that should not be taken lightly, particularly as it relates to our traditionally undeserved students,” said S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman.
“While we have made progress over the past year, we have significant ground to cover in order to meet our goal that every student graduates prepared for success,” she added.
South Carolina is one of 17 states that tests all its high school students. Nationally, 60 percent of students who graduated last spring — or more than 2 million — took the test.
In 2014, the South Carolina Legislature required that beginning in the 2015-16 school year, all high school juniors must take the ACT as well as WorkKeys, a job skills credentialing system, to help them identify their college and career preparedness.
The average score of states that required students to take the ACT was 19.8, or 1.1 points higher than South Carolina's average.
Locally, Charleston County and Dorchester District 2 students both scored above the state average — 19.6 and 19.2, respectively — but still below the national average. Berkeley (18.1) and Dorchester 4 (16.3) were below both averages.
Charleston’s Academic Magnet High School had the second highest score in the state, 29.5, behind only the Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics’ 30.1. Both schools saw scores go down this year, Academic Magnet by six-tenths and the Governor’s School by one-tenth.
In third place statewide, the Charleston County School of the Arts saw an increase from 23.7 in 2016 to 24.5.
Palmetto state students also fell short in meeting the test’s College Readiness Benchmarks, scores that represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher in corresponding courses.
Nationally, 27 percent met the benchmarks in the four core subject areas tested — English, math, reading and science — but that number fell to 15 percent in South Carolina.
The proportion of graduates showing virtually no readiness for college coursework remained sizable. In the class of 2017, half of South Carolina’s students and 33 percent nationwide met none of the benchmarks, suggesting they are likely to struggle during their first year in college.
“What our education system is doing now is not working well enough for far too many of the country’s young people,” said ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda. “Our goal is to positively impact student outcomes, not only in terms of their academic skills but also in terms of their social and emotional learning skills. ACT urges schools, districts and states to take a holistic approach to college and career readiness.”
The top five schools to which South Carolina students sent their scores were: Clemson, University of South Carolina-Columbia, College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina and Winthrop.
The top three out-of-state schools were Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Georgia.
The ACT's new web-based testing platform hit some snags in South Carolina in February and March, when students saw their computer and tablet screens freeze as the testing timer ticked on. That forced some schools to administer makeup tests either online or on paper and delayed scores four months and longer.
Starting in the spring, South Carolina's 11th-graders will have a choice between the ACT or the SAT for their mandatory college entrance exam, a change that state officials said is not related to the ACT’s glitches this year.