Politics & Government

ACT scores are out. Here’s how South Carolina’s high schoolers performed

High school seniors statewide and in seven Lexington and Richland school districts this year bested their overall 2018 ACT college exam scores, according to scores released Wednesday by the college admissions test provider.

But only one of the seven Richland and Lexington districts exceeded the national average. Test takers in Lexington-Richland 5 scored an average of 21 on the test, slightly better than their peers nationally who averaged 20.7 on the test.

Among the seven Lexington and Richland school districts, the average ACT score was 18.2 — compared with an average 17.5 score last year — and, in some cases, certain school districts outperformed the state scores in individual subject sections, including in English.

The highest score a student can get on the ACT is 36.

Several S.C. school districts saw minimal drops, including Marlboro, Orangeburg 3 and 4 and Spartanburg 1 and 3 school districts.

Another handful of school districts saw no change in their scores over last year, including in Aiken and Kershaw counties.

Here’s how students in Midlands districts performed on the ACT this year, compared to last year’s results:

Kershaw: 18.2, no change

Lexington 1: 20.3, up from 19.6

Lexington 2: 17.8, up from 17.4

Lexington 3: 16.6, up from 15.8

Lexington 4: 15.9, up from 15.6

Lexington-Richland 5: 21.0, up from 20.1

Richland 1: 17.2, up from 16.6

Richland 2: 18.3, up from 17.7

Despite a national dip in scores — to 20.7 this year from 20.9 last year — the state’s high-school students have made “significant gains” since 2018, said S.C. schools chief Molly Spearman.

South Carolina’s public school graduates received an average score of 18.6, up from 18.0 last year.

Twenty-four percent of S.C. high school graduates also met three or four ACT section benchmarks, up from 21% last year.

“While we no longer require schools to administer the ACT to every student, we are still seeing a large portion of students taking college readiness exams without having the proper coursework to be successful,” state superintendent Spearman said in a statement on Wednesday. “We must do a better job of making students and parents aware of the impact a challenging course schedule has on their chance for success on these assessments while continuing to raise expectations and rigor in the classroom for all students.”

South Carolina’s high school graduates are no longer required to take the ACT, a roughly three-hour college entrance exam that measures a students’ knowledge of college coursework in English, math, reading and science. It also includes an optional writing test.

The state still pays for students to take the test, which can be taken during a school day.

Last year, 51,183 public school students in South Carolina took the ACT. This year, only 33,834 students did — 78% of the state’s 2019 graduating class — after the state no longer required the test, a sign that more students may now know the college exam is optional as colleges in both South Carolina and nationally have reduced the importance of ACT scores in being admitted into college.

For example, Allen University in Columbia and Furman University in Greenville no longer require the SAT or ACT test scores to be considered, The Greenville News reported.

South Carolina’s ACT scores could prove better in future years.

This month, ACT officials announced that, starting in September next year, students will be able to retake separate sections of the exam. Depending on how the ACT reports those new scores and whether colleges use it could prove helpful to various states.

“While the data suggest that a growing number of U.S. high school graduates are inadequately prepared for success in college courses, it’s encouraging to see groups of students who are bucking the trend,” said ACT CEO Marten Roorda in a statement.

2019 ACT scores: National v. South Carolina


Average composite score: 20.7

Percent meeting English benchmark: 59

Percent meeting reading benchmark: 45

Percent meeting math benchmark: 39

Percent meeting science benchmark: 36

South Carolina:

Average composite score: 18.8

Percent meeting English benchmark: 46

Percent meeting reading benchmark: 33

Percent meeting math benchmark: 27

Percent meeting science benchmark: 25

Source: ACT

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.