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      SC high school seniors show slight gains on ACT

      South Carolina's 2012 high school graduates made minimal gains on the ACT college entrance exam, according to data released by the company today.

      The ACT is an exam that measures academic skills taught in schools and is used as an indicator for success in first-year college courses.

      The average among all South Carolina students, including public, private and home-schooled, was 20.2, a gain of one-tenth of one point from last year.

      The South Carolina average composite score for public school students was 19.9, unchanged from 2011.

      "Behind every statistic is a real student with real aspirations. The students, parents, and teachers all share in the credit for these gains," said State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais.

      Participation increased by 78 South Carolina students over last year.

      The national average composite score for all-students was 21.1, unchanged from the previous year. The national average composite score for public school students was also 21.1, unchanged from the previous year.

      Zais voiced concern about the state's lagging scores, which are behind the national composite score in each subject area, especially gaps in reading and English.

      "While college admissions tests are imperfect indicators of school effectiveness, the data confirms a trend: reading skills remain an area of great concern. Nationwide assessments continue to show a reading gap between South Carolina and the nation. Addressing the reading gap must be our top priority because reading is fundamental to everything else in a student's education. If a student cannot read, they will not succeed in school," he said.

      The national ACT average score in reading remained unchanged from 2011 at 21.3.

      The South Carolina ACT average reading score increased one-tenth of one point to 20.4.

      The national ACT average score in English decreased by one-tenth of one point to 20.5.

      The South Carolina ACT English average score increased by one-tenth of one point to 19.5.

      In South Carolina, the average ACT composite score for all white students was 22.2 while the average composite score for all African-American students was 16.6. Those scores remain unchanged from 2011.

      The ACT includes four tests: English, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning. Scores are reported in each of those as well as the overall composite using a 36-point scale.