As ACT scores for the class of 2012 were released this week, a trend emerged in area school districts: A higher percentage of teens in Southwest Missouri are taking the ACT, but some schools experienced lower composite scores and saw fewer students scoring at or above the national average than in years past.
Many area school districts are above the national average score of 21.1 and hovering around the state average of 21.6.
The scores for the college entrance exam were released by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
In Joplin, the composite ACT score stayed the same as that of 2011, at 21.6. This year, 62.2 percent of Joplin’s 429 graduates took the ACT, the highest percentage of students in at least the past five years.
On the flip side, 31.2 percent of those who took the ACT scored at or above the national average, the lowest in the past five years.
“The additional students taking the ACT now are going to typically be kids who wouldn’t have been a college bound-type student before,” said Joplin Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer.
“With more students taking it, the indication is very positive. More kids think they can get into college and do college-level work. Scores going down is to be expected because kids who thought they were going to get great ACT scores have always taken the ACT.”
Besendorfer said one hurdle for some students in the Joplin School District is the cost to take the ACT.
“We’ve seen a continuing trend of more students believing and continuing to take it,” she said. “One of the inhibitors is the students being able to pay for the ACT. Kids are coming from areas where financially mom and dad can’t pay for it. That inhibits some of our kids.”
The Carl Junction School District marked a higher percentage of graduates taking the ACT than in the past five years and saw its average composite score slip from 22 last year to 21.3, the lowest it has been in the past five years.
In 2012, 76.2 percent of 202 graduates took the test, with 36.6 percent of students scoring at or above the national average, a five-year low for the district. For the past five years, about 44 to 46 percent of students have scored that high.
“We are rather disappointed with scores this year,” said Kathy Tackett, assistant superintendent. “They are lower than we’re used to seeing. We have a higher percentage of kids taking the test than most of the area, and that’s a significant factor in that as well. We want kids to take the ACT.”