ACT new state measure for college preparedness

City, county schools prepare for change
Oct. 01, 2013 @ 09:56 AM

North Carolina high school students for years have taken the Standard Aptitude Test (SAT) to qualify for college.  A change in the state's education model could make the SAT a thing of the past.

As part of its transition to Common Core state standards, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction is using ACT (American College Testing), a standardized assessment, as the new measure for college readiness.

"We're moving toward the ACT," Thomasville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin said. "It will be a big measure of school accountability and you're seeing a decrease in the number of students taking the SAT. It's important to know that as we transition to Common Core state standards, you will find that ACT is more aligned. We're seeing that students are not taking the SAT in the numbers they were before."

This year, all high school juniors will be required to take the ACT test.

Decreased participation in the SAT showed in this year's recently released scores from the state.  SAT participation in Thomasville City Schools dropped from 81 percent in 2011-12 to 67 percent last year.  Eighteen less students took the SAT in 2012-13, but Thomasville’s participation rate still exceeded the state average of 62 percent.

SAT scores in Thomasville also declined from the previous year, dropping from 1225 to 1209. Writing (383) and math (418) experienced dips while critical reading (408) gained three points.  

"I'm disappointed of course," said Thomasville High School Principal Deboy Beamon. "One of the things to look at with that 67 percent is it's still higher than the national average. Our participation is still one of the highest in the state, county. We just have to get the kids to do better on the test."

In terms of taking the test, the SAT and ACT feature two radically different strategies. The ACT features five components — math, reading, science, English and optional writing — compared to the SAT’s three of critical reasoning, math and a mandatory writing test.     

THS juniors will take  the ACT on March 4 and Beamon said the focus is getting students prepared.

"We've got some things in place," Beamon said.  "A lot of it is the kids just don't know the strategies. We're focusing on strategies to go along with content knowledge. We did see an increase in ACT scores after going through workshops. We're going to do same thing again on March 3."

As the system transitions to the ACT, Pitre-Martin said it's important to provide the support that students need to be successful.

"The ACT and SAt are totally different tests and you have to prepare differently," said Pitre-Martin. "That's work we'll have to put in with our students to make sure they know what the difference is so they'll be better prepared to take the test."

Davidson County Schools also experienced slight decreases in SAT scores and participation. DCS registered a 1483 — 511 in math, 495 in critical reading and 477 writing — marking a three-point decrease from 2011-12. Twenty-five less students took the SAT than the previous year.

"We want students to take both college entrance exams due to universities and colleges not requiring the same tests," said Superintendent Dr. Fred Mock. "We continue to encourage more students to take advantage of the data provided from the PSAT which is given to students free of charge in October."


Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or