Gainesville City Schools students got higher composite scores than last year on their ACT college entrance exams, school board officials announced Thursday.
Though students scored below the state and national averages, their composite scores rose to 19.3 from 19.1 out of a total of 36. The state average is 20.6, and the national average is 21.1.
"We set incremental goals to improve that score by being sure all students are offered access to college prep classes," Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said.
The state averages for individual content areas either fell slightly or remained the same as 2010 scores.
Previously, beginning in the 1990s, only students who were on a college prep diploma track were offered the opportunity to take the ACT and the Scholastic Aptitude Test. However, with the switch in teaching to prepare all students for college or a career after graduation, more students needed to take these tests, Dyer said.
Dyer said the school system set its goals to make students more prepared for college prep courses when they are in middle school so by their junior year, they are ready to excel on college entrance exams.
"We do have some SAT prep courses, but not ACT," she said. "We're thinking about that because some students are performing better on the ACT."
The district also reported a significant increase in the number of students taking the ACT. In 2008, 41 students took it. In 2011, that number rose to 94.
That reflects a statewide trend of more students taking the ACT than ever before.
"We were prepared that with the rise in numbers of students that took the test there would be some decline," Dyer said.
Approximately 3,000 more students in Georgia took the ACT in 2011 than took it in 2010.
Dyer said for the past three years, the school system encouraged students to take both the SAT and ACT. Data shows some students perform better on the ACT than the SAT.
"The ACT has a focus on verbal and reasoning and creativity, something that the SAT might not capture," she said.