Promising ACT, graduate rates could transcend to economy - - Jackson, MS

Promising ACT, graduate rates could transcend to economy

ACT scores inching closer to national average (Source: MGN Online) ACT scores inching closer to national average (Source: MGN Online)
MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - According to the State Department of Education, the ACT scores of this year's high school seniors are higher this year, than two years ago.

A handful of North Alabama school districts helped raise that average including Madison, Hartselle, Huntsville, and Decatur. All of the averages, with the exception of Decatur, increased from the previous year.

Madison City School graduates scored an average of four points higher, raising the state average to 24.1. Madison school leaders point to the ACT prep courses and practice tests offered to the students as sophomores.

James Clemens High School Principal, Brian Clayton said, "Teachers not only prepare students for knowledge based tests but also teach them how to apply concepts."    

Most universities use ACT scores as one of the factors in the admissions process. The test is given multiple times during the year, and contains a series of multiple choice questions in each of the subject areas, and has a specified time limit for each section.

Clayton added, "A student's success starts from the ground up. Even down in the middle schools at this point we have STEM academies that have been developed and some pre-AP classes that have been developed."

Outgoing seniors at Lawrence County celebrated the highest ACT averages in the school system's history. Students scored an average of 19.7. Superintendent Heath Grimes credits the first year they had a full selection of AP classes.

The school system also improved their graduation rate to 89 percent. The state average is 80.

An economics professor at Auburn University predicts a more than $400-million increase in the state's economic output if that 80 percent goes up to 90 by 2020. That financial increase would be the equivalent to the state landing another Airbus jet assembly plant every year.

The professor who put the study together calculated the benefits by looking at the average incomes of high school dropouts, versus high school graduates.

She also looked at how many of the graduates would likely go on to college or other higher education.

Brinda Mahalingam, a UAH economics professor, said the predictions are certainly feasible, although she points out the improvements won't happen overnight.

"It will be difficult in the short run, because I might graduate from high school now but I might not find a job right away," Mahalingam said. "But, if there are enough graduates, companies will come. They will start locating here, and then we start getting more jobs. So it's easier for your kids and your kids kids and so on."

Mahalingam said another benefit would be a drop in crime and unemployment rates, coinciding with a rise in the general standard of living for residents.

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