Local scores lower than state, higher than U.S.

Fewer Miami Valley seniors participated in ACT, SAT in 2012.

Students at Miami Valley school districts scored slightly below the state average but solidly above the national mark on both the ACT and SAT, according to data for 2012.

According to a study of Ohio Department of Education data from the 2011-12 report card, graduating seniors from the nine-county region averaged a composite score of 21.7 on the ACT, out of a possible 36. The state average composite was 21.8, and the national average composite was 21.1.

Oakwood High School had the highest mean ACT composite score of all local schools, notching a 26.

On the SAT, Miami Valley districts averaged a mean score of 1,079, based on the composite mean calculated by the ODE, which included critical reading and math scores but not the writing portion of the test.

That local mean was less than the state mean, using the same ODE criteria, of 1,095; but, it was higher than the national mean of 1,010.

Troy High School topped area schools in SAT mean scores at 1,186, followed closely by Kings (1,178), Talawanda (1,168), Springboro (1,162) and Lebanon (1,158).

Although participation in these tests has steadily increased nationwide since 1986, ODE report card data shows that local participation dropped for 2012.

For both 2009-10 and 2010-11, at least some portion of the graduating classes at all Miami Valley school districts took the ACT. For the SAT, only four districts — Mechanicsburg, Tri-Village, Mississiniwa Valley and Bradford — did not report scores for that test.

For the region’s 2011-12 graduating classes, 65 out of 74 local school districts reported scores for the ACT and less than half – 36 out of 74 – had scores for the SAT.

School officials said these numbers often fluctuate, but each year they encourage kids to take these tests.

“We still try to tell students, ‘If you’re planning on going to college, plan on taking a college readiness exam,’ ” said Wayne Local Superintendent Patrick Dubbs. “We tell them to think about where they want to go to school, what scholarships they may be in the running for and what test best fits them.”

The ACT tests reading, math, English and science, and has been traditionally more favored across the Midwest, South and Southwest.

Participation in the SAT — which tests critical reading, math and writing — slowed nationally, as well. The ACT overtook the SAT in test-takers for the first time in 2012, by fewer than 2,000 participants, with roughly 1.65 million graduating seniors taking each test.

However, the importance of these tests — especially that of the SAT — may have begun to wane, as the number of colleges making these tests optional continues to increase.

A survey released Wednesday by FairTest, a national center for fair and open testing, found that more than 800 accredited, bachelor-degree granting colleges and universities do not require all or many applicants to submit scores from either test.

“More than 80 colleges and universities adopted test-optional or test-flexible admissions in the past several years,” reported Bob Schaeffer, FairTest’s director of public education. “Statistical data shows that (the ACT and SAT) have about the same weak value in predicting college performance. High school grades are a better predictor of college readiness.”

The SAT has incurred several strikes against it in the last few years, which may have affected participation nationally and locally. The test added a writing component in 2005, which most colleges in Ohio don’t use; weathered scoring errors on thousands of tests in the mid-2000s; and, in 2010, endured a cheating scandal.

The SAT also has a guessing penalty that the ACT avoids, and is more expensive than the ACT — $50, compared to $35.

“We expect the ACT/SAT optional list to continue growing,” Schaeffer said.

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