LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett County Public Schools beat the national and state average on the latest ACT college achievement tests and tied its own record for the highest scores on the exam, according to newly released results.
Scores on the college entry exam rose in Barrow County and the Buford City Schools, but the districts' average scores are still below the state's.
The 2,125 high school students that took the ACT - formerly the American College Test - in Gwinnett County received an average composite score of 21.6, according to the school system.
The results, which are based on ACTs given last school year, bested the national average of 21.1 and the state average of 20.2. ACT scores can range from 1 to 36.
Linda Mitchell, Gwinnett Schools executive director of student accountability, assessment, and advisement, said the system received its best ACT scores in five years. More kids deciding to take Advanced Placement classes played a role in the improvement.
"Students were exposed to more rigorous classes, and that's an important way to improve scores," Mitchell said.
In addition, more students were exposed to the Gateway Assessment by the 10th grade, a test that can sharpen their skill in writing about science and social studies.
The ACT is used by colleges and universities to predict how well students will perform at the post-secondary level. Students are encouraged to take the ACT as well as the SAT college admission exam to provide a broad range of information for college admissions counselors.
Gwinnett's 2006 graduating class increased their ACT scores from the 21.2 composite score posted by 2005 graduates. The latest scores also improved in all areas of the test, which includes math, English, reading and science.
Matt Thompson, Barrow's testing specialist, said students made significant improvements when they raised their scores from 18.2 last school year to 19.5. In Buford, the composite score rose from 19.6 to 19.8.
Just 66 students took the test in Barrow and 22 in Buford. Statewide, about 30 percent of high school juniors take the college entrance test.
Elaine Carter, Buford's director of assessment and data, said the district is pleased that its scores are so close to its neighboring systems. She said it is easier for one student who does very well or very poorly on the exam to change the score because so few students take the ACT. Last year, 37 students were tested.
The district will continue to educate students about their various testing options, she said.
The number of students taking the ACT in Barrow increased from 53 during the 2004-05 school year. Thompson said he was impressed by the range of the district's increase, 1.3 points when the state raised its score just .2 since last year.
"We're as pleased as we can be with one year," he said. "We've increased just about every year since 2003. I don't see any particular reason for the trend to stop anytime soon."