Natchez High sees higher ACT scores, private schools’ scores drop

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 16, 2008

NATCHEZ — Recently-released test scores have proved to be good news for one school in the Natchez-Adams District.

Natchez High School showed improvement in every category on the ACT exam.

The test is used to gauge college preparedness and in some cases is used to establish scholarship eligibility.

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The test measures performance in English, math, reading and science.

From the graduating classes of 2007 to 2008 at the scores at NHS went up from: 16.3 to 17.3 in English, 15.8 to 16.3 in math, 16.9 to 17.1 in reading and 16.8 to 17.4 in science.

The school earned a 17.2 as their composite score.

A 36 is the highest achievable grade on the ACT.

NHS’s Principal James Loftin said he was very pleased with the scores.

“We knew they could do it,” he said of his students.

Loftin attributed the higher scores to the increasingly rigorous curriculum and the hard work done by students.

“Students realize the impact of the test,” he said. “And students want to know how to improve.”

Loftin said one of the ways students are improving is by attending special classes that prepare them for the test.

District Superintendent Anthony Morris, like Loftin, said he was very pleased by the scores.

Morris also pointed to the increasing rigor in the NHS curriculum as a reason for the increased performance.

In particular, Morris noted that the number of students participating in the Mississippi Scholars program has increased since the program’s inception in 2007.

The program places eligible students in classes with a more rigorous curriculum than is necessary to graduate.

While students at NHS experienced higher scores, students at other schools saw a slight drop in scores.

At Cathedral High School counselor Penny Daggett said she saw a drop in the composite scores between the graduating classes of 2007 and 2008.

In 2007 the composite score was a 22.6, in 2008 it was 22.3 as scored by the ACT.

Daggett said she attributed the drop in scores to two students that were not in the graduating class but were graded on the test.

Daggett said she could not account for the two extra students graded on the test.

“That can have an impact,” she said.

Adams County Christian School also experienced a decline in scores.

Counselor Tracy Davis said in 2008 the composite score fell from 20.4 to a 19.7 in 2007.

Davis did not attribute the decrease in scores to any one factor but said from year to year there is a “difference in students.”

Davis also said she felt confident the scores would be back up for the class of 2009.

Trinity High School’s Head of School Delecia Carey said Trinity does not release ACT scores.

And while the composite scores at Cathedral and ACCS were still higher than those at NHS, Morris and Loftin have high hopes for the future.

Both said they think the increased rigor on the MCT2 test, given to grammar school students, will translate to even higher ACT scores in years to come.

The state’s composite score was an 18.9.

The State Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds also noted the past five years have showed an improvement in the state’s English stores.

Bounds attributed the elevated English scores to a more rigorous course load.

“Having high standards works,” he said.