District ACT average bests state, nation
Aiken County School District high school seniors who took the ACT college entrance exam in 2013 have outscored the state and national averages results.
The districtwide average on the ACT was 21.4 on a scale of 1 to 36, which is 0.5 points ahead of the national average and 0.10 points higher than the state average.
Aiken High School and South Aiken High School led the district with 22.8 and 22.7, respectively.
The scores are a composite of English, math, reading and science. Also scoring above 20 were North Augusta High (20.5) and Midland Valley High (20.2).
The state average included all students from public and private schools.
Dr. Randy Stowe, the Aiken County District’s director of administration, said he looks primarily at the district average and its performance related to the state and national results.
“The scores show that we are doing a good job of preparing our students for college,” he said. “Scores at individual schools will be up and down, depending on which students opted to take the ACT this year.”
The SAT remains the more familiar and popular exam on the East Coast. However, the ACT is better known and used more in states west of the Mississippi River, Stowe said.
Colleges now are accepting the ACT as readily as the SAT, said Linda Strojan, the senior class guidance counselor at Aiken High.
“The ACT is a very different test than the SAT,” she said. “I encourage students to take both, as some do better on one or the other.”
Stowe described the ACT as an achievement test. It has English, math and science portions, covering material that students do take in school. The SAT is considered an aptitude test.
“The type of questions on the SAT are trying to look at a student’s basic aptitude for doing well in college,” Stowe said. “It doesn’t necessarily ask questions on the school content.”
SAT scores are compared from state to state, but that’s not a fair assessment, Stowe said. While South Carolina has a large number of students taking the SAT, other states further west may have no more than 5 percent of tested students choosing the SAT.
Strojan recommends that her students avoid taking either test before January of their junior year. She suggests students take the preliminary PSAT and the preliminary ACT test called PLAN earlier as juniors to give them practice for the college-entrance tests.
“If students take the SAT and ACT tests too many times, they can burn out,” Strojan said.
Neither test should be regarded as the only predictor of college performance, Stowe said. A student’s coursework and grades are important criteria, as well.
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro.