Jim Ferguson-Chief Academic Officer for High Schools
What do colleges and universities want from high school graduates? What partially determines entrance to college? How are a large percentage of scholarships determined and awarded? What matters to families and their pocketbooks when it comes to paying for college?
There is one answer to all of the questions above? A STUDENT’S ACT SCORE!
In our region of the country, a student’s ACT score is critically important. ACT scores are a determining factor for college entrance. Furthermore, the amount of academic scholarships a student receives is determined largely in part to a student’s ACT. The score is used to determine if a student must take remedial classes before taking credit bearing courses that count toward a degree and/or for some, the ACT score may determine which college or university a student can attend. Since ACT scores are critical for a student’s pursuit of education beyond high school, the scores are a high priority for DeSoto County Schools.
DeSoto County Schools has worked hard over the last few years to place an emphasis on ACT scores. In 2011-2012, the district provided the resources to place a PSAT/ACT program in every school; each school was asked to provide three teachers to teach the program. The teachers not only teach the class during the school day but also provide a 40 hour summer workshop.
In the same year, DeSoto County Schools provided an opportunity for every student to take a practice ACT in a live testing setting on Saturday morning. The students paid for the practice test and services provided. The students received feedback on their strengths and weaknesses and had the opportunity for further assistance.
In 2012-2013, the district provided professional development on infusing strategies in the classroom for all high school teachers. Some teachers received more professional development later in the year specific to the subject they teach.
In 2013-2014, the district budgeted and purchased a practice ACT exam for all juniors in the district. DCS participated in ACT’s weekday administration of the ACT last April. The district purchased an ACT exam for all juniors. This was the first time for many students to take the ACT. Many students had no plans to further their education beyond high school and saw no need to participate. Upon receiving the results, some students realized that going to college could be a reality. For other students, the score increased several points which meant their scholarship dollars would increase. This was a bold and proactive move by our district to assist students in realizing their potential and achieving their dream.
In 2014-2015, the State of Mississippi is purchasing the ACT for all juniors. Once again, DCS is leading the way and setting the pace for our state and region.
As a result of the efforts of DCS to place an emphasis on ACT scores, the district’s composite score for the Class of 2014 increased by .5 to reach an average of 20.0. This is the highest average in many years. Also, the English and Reading scores increase by .6 while Math increased by .2.
Lastly, DeSoto County Schools has a strong desire to work with families to ensure each student has the opportunity to pursue his or her dreams. We want every student to have as many opportunities as possible. As we continue to increase our ACT scores in the district, our students will be able to choose their college, major, and profession. Ultimately, ACT scores have an effect on how our students will help provide for their families in the future. DeSoto County Schools is committed to making a difference in the lives of our students now and in the future.