By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Tupelo High School is adding resources to help its students score better on the ACT.
The test is used by most Southern colleges and universities to determine admission, scholarships and whether or not students must take remedial classes. It also may soon be used as part of the state’s formula to rank Mississippi high schools.
THS has expanded its existing ACT prep class, purchased an online resource and found ways to offer the test for free to many of its students this year.
“The ACT is important for college admittance, and we want to make sure our students are college- and career-ready,” said Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon.
The school’s ACT prep class is a nine-week course that meets every day for 95 minutes and counts for a half credit. This year, the school added a second instructor for the class so Amanda Inman could focus on math skills and Amber Nichols-Buckley could lead the English portion. Nearly 140 students have enrolled in the class, and they will rotate between the two to meet their needs.
Students can prepare for the tests at home, using the ACT prep online program that the district purchased last year for them to use. Plus, THS counselors lead an after-school ACT workshop before each test.
THS Principal Jason Harris said the test can boost scholarship potential.
“We have a lot of students who want to go to Ivy League schools, and when they see a (score of) 34 or 35, they understand what type of students Tupelo High produces,” he said.
GEAR UP Mississippi will pay for all of the school’s seniors who want to take the test on Oct. 26. Another grant will pay for all THS juniors to take the test on March 18.
Its sophomores will take the ACT PLAN in February. That is a test that resembles the ACT and helps students to see what they must improve before taking the actual test.
Last year, THS had more than 200 ACT scholars, students who scored at least a 24 on the test. It had 28 students score at least a 30. The school’s composite score was 20.3, up from 20 the year before. The state average was 18.9 and the national average was 20.9, although Dillon said that number is skewed because in some regions of the country it is mostly the top students who take the test.
THS had 358 students take the test last year, although more could have taken it without designating their high school.