Montgomery County Public Schools’ latest batch of graduates who took the ACT college entrance exam scored higher in each of the test’s four areas compared to last year’s students and beat both state and national average scores.
On the test with possible scores ranging from 0 to 36, the roughly 3,000 test takers from the county school system held an average composite score of 23.5, an increase from 23.2 in 2012, Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said during the Aug. 21 county Board of Education meeting.
This year’s state average composite score stood at 22.3 and and the national average at 20.9.
The number of students participating in the test fell slightly — from 3,181 students in 2012 to 3,146 students in 2013 — and totaled about 30 percent of the system’s 2013 graduates.
Starr said at the Board of Education meeting that the scores marked “good news” for the county school system.
He added, however, he had heard reports saying the ACT results generally show a lack of college preparedness among the country’s students.
Pointing to the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, Starr said “the standard is changing” and that he sees county schools working hard as they make the transition.
“I am not an apologist for the results we get,” he said. “There’s no doubt we have an enormous amount of work to do in American public education.”
At area colleges, standardized-test scores have varying significance and aren’t a make-or-break factor on an application, college and university officials say.
Marcus Rosano, a spokesman for Montgomery College, said that the college doesn’t take ACT or SAT scores into account because its students enter the school through open enrollment.
While the SAT tests students on their “reasoning and verbal abilities,” the ACT focuses on “what a student has learned in school,” according to the official ACT website for students.
“We see such a small number of these ACT scores because we don’t ask for them,” Rosano said.
If students come to the college with strong ACT results, they can use them to receive an exemption from taking the college’s math or English assessment tests.
Students must score a 24 or above on both the English and math portions of the ACT to be exempted from the college’s assessment test in either subject.
Out of about 6,255 new students at Montgomery College this fall, about 330 approached the school with either their ACT or SAT scores and were able to bypass an assessment test, Rosano said.
Shannon Gundy — director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Maryland — said that ACT scores are one factor among many that the university takes into account when looking at “the whole picture” of a student.
Of the students admitted for this fall semester, the middle 50 percent scored between 28 and 32 on the ACT, Gundy said.
Each year, she said, the university is seeing more and more ACT scores on applications, usually in addition to SAT scores.
In the county school system, ACT participation has generally increased about 21 percent over the last five years, according to school officials, with the number of Hispanic students increasing about 60 percent and the number of African-American students increasing about 25 percent over the same time period.