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More students here take ACT, official says

Encouraging college entrance exams for all high school studentshas had a negative outcome for Mississippi in national rankings,but local education officials believe scores will rise with betterpreparation.

After learning that the state’s ACT scores ranked 50thnationally in a report by the Southern Regional Education Board,education officials attributed the low scores to the fact that mostschools advocate all students taking the test, not just the topscholars.

“I would say probably 80 percent of our kids take the ACT, butin some districts maybe only 20 percent take it,” said BrookhavenSchool District Superintendent Dr. Sam Bounds.

The average ACT score for students at Brookhaven High School is18, just slightly below the state average of 18.6. The basicadmissions requirement at most non-selective universities is a 17ACT score.

Students in college preparatory classes at BHS, however, made anaverage 19.3 last year.

Bounds strongly believes that scores will increase in upcomingyears for students in both regular and college preparatory classesbecause of recent changes in the district.

“We have lowered our student-teacher ratio, and put moreemphasis on reading and writing. We started preparing them at anearlier age,” he said. “We feel the students coming up now will bemore prepared.”

Education officials agree strict guidelines introduced in thestate during the past decade will hopefully increase the scores atevery school.

“I think the emphasis that has been placed on academics sincethe new accountability system came out will help the state’sscores,” said Bounds. “I think it’s going to really dowonders.”

Those initiatives include the “No Child Left Behind” program,which entails more rigorous testing procedures and more educatedteachers.

Another area of concern in the national rankings is the wideninggap between black and white students’ test scores inMississippi.

Black students taking college preparatory classes at BHS scoredan average of 15.6 on the ACT, while white students taking the sameclasses scored an average of 21 on the ACT. The reasons behind thisgap are not clear to education officials.

“Those kids are in the same classrooms and taught the samematerial,” said Bounds. “Each student can challenge themselves asmuch as they want to be challenged.”

Tuesday: Scores from the LincolnCounty School District.