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ACT scores remain stable in Panhandle

August 19, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

EASTERN PANHANDLE -- ACT test scores of Eastern Panhandle students this year remained relatively unchanged from 2008, even as the number of students tested continued to increase in all three counties, according to data released Wednesday by school district officials.

The only change from 2008 scores was a tenth-of-a-percent drop in Morgan County's average score, from 20 to 19.9 this year. Berkeley and Jefferson county's respective scores of 20.9 and 21.4 in 2008 did not change this year, school officials said.

"Even though our overall score was lower by one-tenth of a percent from last year, we did increase our math score (from 18.6 to 18.8) in the county over last year," Morgan County Schools Superintendent David Banks said Wednesday.

That increase, however, appeared to be offset by a four-tenths of a percent drop in the average science score, according to data released by the school district.

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The scores of college-bound students in West Virginia earned an average of 20.7 on the ACT, which was the same as last year and still below the national average of 21.1. Jefferson County's 21.4 average composite score was the exception.

A perfect score on the test that gauges students' knowledge of English, math, reading and science is 36.

Only Jefferson County's average math score lagged below the national average and it declined by two-tenths of percent from 2008. The drop was offset by a larger percent improvement in English. Berkeley County students' average scores in mathematics and science fell below the national averages, but still performed better than most nationally in reading and English, according to the data.

Significantly fewer Morgan County students (84) took the ACT in 2009 than in Berkeley (491) and Jefferson (228) counties, but the school district's test results still were below state and national averages for all four subject areas. Like the other two counties and the state average, Morgan' math scores were the lowest among the four subject areas. Nationally, English and science scores were the lowest, according to the ACT report.

While more students have been taking the ACT test, Berkeley County Deputy Superintendent Frank Aliveto said Wednesday that many of the school district's students take the SAT to enroll in out-of-state colleges and universities.

"We have a lot of kids that take the SAT, more so than the rest of West Virginia," said Aliveto, estimating that 60 percent may take the SAT.

Overall, Aliveto said colleges have been placing less emphasis on the test scores, which now are "just part of the package" of a successful application.

While the state average composite score remained unchanged from 2008, the West Virginia Department of Education announced on Wednesday that black students across the state showed the most improvement, earning an average composite score of 17.5, up from 17.3 last year. The national average was 16.9.

West Virginia students have been doing gradually better on the test each year since 1999, when the composite score was 20.2, according to The Associated Press.

Superintendent of Schools Steven L. Paine said he expects further strides since the state restructured its educational system to emphasize critical thinking, problem solving, communications skills, global awareness and business literacy, according to the AP.

New content standards and objectives that took effect last school year also should help to boost student performance, Paine said.

Colleges and universities across the country use scores on the college entrance exam for admissions, scholarship decisions and course placement.

West Virginia uses ACT and SAT scores for the PROMISE Scholarship, which pays tuition and fees at in-state colleges.

Staff writer Trish Rudder contributed to this story.

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