GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Several Coast superintendents say they are pleased that Mississippi's ACT score continues to climb. Scores released Wednesday show our state's average was 19 last year. That is a slight increase over the previous year, but it's still below the national average of 21.
This year, Mississippi is making the ACT mandatory for all high school juniors. The test is free, and the scores will affect students and their school districts.
Adam McMahon believes a high ACT score could help set the stage for his dreams of being in theatre or in pre-medicine.
"I took it in seventh grade and received a 25, and what that does is prepares students to take it more times where they can improve their score," said Adam.
Adam's highest score is 34. Fellow Gautier High senior Matthew Hammond took the test five times. His top score is 33.
"I want to get a 35, and by then, it should seem very likely to get into the Naval Academy," said Matthew.
This year, Mississippi is putting a greater emphasis on the ACT. State lawmakers approved spending $1.3 million to pay for the ACT for all high school juniors. Those scores will be used as part of a formula to grade each school district, especially to gauge college readiness.
"I just thought it was a good idea. I think it was long overdue. I think it's the most sensible test that we can give in our public school system," said Pascagoula Schools Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich.
Rodolfich has long supported the idea of requiring high school students to take the ACT instead of the current exit exams.
"I think the ACT should be the priority test for all high school students. Number two; it's the test that pays students to take it, because they can get scholarships as a result of their performance. We're trying to encourage all of our students to take their ACT," said Rodolfich.
Last year, the Pascagoula School District funded its own ACT program. It spent more than $16,000 so all the juniors at Pascagoula High and Gautier High could take the test.
"We want to get a little bit ahead of the game to see where we were as a district, so we could set some goals for this year. Anytime you attach something with accountability to it, you're going to focus more on it, and it's going to introduce more students to the ACT," said Rodolfich.
"You see a lot of seniors that are just now taking it in their senior year. They're very stressed out, because they only have a select number of times. Since I took it early on in my junior year, I had a lot more time to go to the ACT prep courses," said Gautier High senior Veshonte Brown.
Many schools are offering ACT prep courses this year to help prepare students. More than 20,000 Mississippi high school juniors will be taking the ACT next March.