Local students score high on ACT tests

PARKERSBURG – Some area school systems scored high marks compared against the rest of the state on 2012 ACT scores.

Wood, Pleasants, Ritchie and Jackson counties were all among the highest composite 2012 ACT scores in the state, according to scores posted on the West Virginia Department of Education website.

Putnam County ranked the highest, with a composite score of 21.7. Wood and Pleasants County tied for second, 21.5. Ritchie County (21.3) was third and Jackson County (21.0) was tied for fourth.

McDowell County (18.0) was last in the state in composite scores. It trailed Webster, Gilmer, Grant and Pocahontas counties. School systems in Gilmer and McDowell counties are under state control. Grant County’s school system is under partial state control.

The scores were posted in December.

The scores were a testament to the kids, Pleasants County Schools Superintendent Mike Wells said.

“We had a good group that achieved both in and out of the classroom,” he said. “It’s a testament to our teachers working hard.”

Pleasants County students taking the ACT were first in the state in English (tied with Putnam) and reading and were ranked third in science.

Parkersburg High School topped the county in all four categories of English, math, reading and science. Parkersburg High Principal Pam Goots credited teachers meeting to share concepts and exchange ideas.

Teachers who teach the same concentrations have the same planning periods and are able to meet, she said.

“They are getting together talking about teaching concepts, what worked and what didn’t and sharing that with others,” Goots said.

Faculty at Ritchie County High School prepare students for the ACT, Principal Kelly Waggoner said. They hold ACT summer camps and lunchtime and after-school reviews, with several hours of each review devoted to an aspect of the testing, she said.

“Our teachers take it seriously and instill it in the kids,” she said. “(The teachers) are on the front lines working hard every day. They are pushing it.”

Students benefit from ACT tests conducted on-site, as opposed to taking the test at WVU-Parkersburg, Waggoner said.

The Ritchie County Board of Education also encourages better scores, offering an ACT book scholarship. If a student attends an ACT camp and raises their score to 19, the board will reimburse them up to $400 for books the first year of college, Waggoner said.

The ACT test is a good measure of a subset of students, Parkersburg South High School Principal Tom Eschbacher said. South had 208 students take the ACT test, which Eschbacher said is an indication of students attending college.

“It’s a decent measure, an opportunity to take a sample at how college-bound kids are doing,” he said.

At South, 56 percent of students indicated they would attend a post-secondary four-year program, Eschbacher said.

Between 75 and 85 percent of the students surveyed at South plan to attend some form of post-secondary, military or apprenticeship program, he said.

“We are real proud of our scores. And proud of our students making those scores,” he said. “The credit goes to the students and teachers. If it wasn’t for the teachers they wouldn’t be prepared.”

The ACT is a comparison of apples to apples, Wells said. Pleasants and Ritchie are both smaller systems with only one high school.

“Having smaller groups of kids to test, one or two can really differentiate the results sometimes,” he said. “Looking past the numbers, we have done very well and been very competitive.”