However, only Cobb improved scores since last year, according to test results released by the districts on Wednesday.
Cobb’s average composite score rose one-tenth of a point to 22.2 in 2014, while Marietta’s average score went down one-tenth of a point to 21.2.
The ACT is a curriculum-based test designed to measure college readiness and preparation. Scores are based on a scale of zero to 36. The ACT is made up of four separate exams in English, reading, math and science and an optional writing portion.
Interim Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said he was “very proud” of students for continuing to excel on the ACT.
“The ACT is an important barometer for colleges and universities,” Ragsdale said. “Our students showed improvement in three of four subject areas, and continued to surpass their peers at the state and national levels.”
Surpassing state scores
Both Cobb and Marietta’s average scores were higher than the Georgia average of 20.8.
Although Marietta’s scores slightly dipped, Superintendent Emily Lembeck said she was proud.
“Overall, I’d say that we continue to post composite scores that exceed the state and national averages, and I feel very good about that,” Lembeck said. “Of course, I know that we do need to keep pushing to continue to improve. We were still really quite competitive regarding the state and the nation.”
Lembeck said Marietta students need improvement in algebra.
Marietta students scored an average of 20.5 in math, which was the same as the state average.
Classroom teachers are the reason for Cobb’s higher performance over state and national averages, said Mary Elizabeth Davis, Cobb’s chief academic officer.
“As a district, we have had a concentrated emphasis on the skills associated with being college and career ready,” Davis said. “Teachers are more successfully integrating the content standards with the college skills like problem solving, critical thinking, technical writing and communication and that really has improved the scores.”
Davis said one example of integrating college skills into the high school curriculum is asking students to analyze documents, such as historical documents, graphs and works of art.
“We have had a heavy focus, especially in our English and language arts area on … how to use original documents as a source and really understand and analyze what is being said in those documents,” Davis said. “We’re spending a lot of time thinking about what is being communicated through that document and writing about that.”
Davis said the exercise helps students think critically about something and then express those thoughts in writing.
“Those college skills are very nicely aligned to what the ACT measures,” Davis said. “Our students are really held to a higher level of processing content and applying that knowledge.”
Davis said small variations in the composite score do not raise concern.
“We want to continue to see scores advance, but when you are performing at a high level, there will be some variance at that higher level, so (some high schools’ scores dropping one-tenth of a point), that’s not concerning to me.”
Outperforming national average
Both school systems performed higher than the national average of 21.
Nine of Cobb’s 16 high schools outperformed the national average. Davis believes that will make the students at those schools more competitive in applying to colleges.
According to freshman class profiles, the freshman with the lowest ACT score at Kennesaw State University made a 16 while the freshman with the highest score made a 31.
The middle 50 percent of the University of Georgia’s freshman class received ACT scores that ranged from 28 to 32.
In the Cobb School District, Walton High School scored the highest on the ACT, with a 25.7 average, and close behind was Pope with 24.8, Lassiter with 24.7 and Wheeler with 24.5.
Davis said Cobb students excelled in social science and biology, compared to state scores.
Cobb students scored higher than state averages in the subjects of U.S. history, world history and American government, which were combined for a total 22.2 average for Cobb and 20.7 average for Georgia.
The two Cobb schools with the lowest ACT score averages were Osborne High School with 17 and Pebblebrook High School with 18.1, which both fall below state and national averages.
Davis said there is always something more to work on, and she said the schools with low scores will attempt to do better in the future at teaching students skills to get them ready for college.
“The ACT is one of those measures of college and career readiness,” Davis said.
“Still, it is pretty remarkable that most Cobb students did better in every area than the Georgia standards.”
Both school systems saw an increase in the number of students who took the ACT this year.
At Marietta High School, 191 students took the exam this year, compared to 170 in 2013. At Cobb schools, 3,663 students took the exam, compared to 3,651 in 2013.
“More and more Cobb students are taking the ACT, and it is unusual to see scores increase at the same time the percentage of test takers increases. That is a testament to the quality of our high school instruction and the commitment of our teachers,” Ragsdale said.
Lembeck agreed with Ragsdale, saying she thought more students were taking the exam because its subject matter was familiar.
“If you go back over time in 2010, we only had 155 students participating in the ACT,” Lembeck said. “I think students find it more related to the type of work that they do in their classes.”