Tupelo focuses on improving ACT scores

Tupelo School District LogoBy Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

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.


  • Kevin

    Educational leaders continue to steer students toward college, and along with social pressure to go to college right out of high school and the stream of immature and unprepared students continues. The vast majority of college students between the ages of 18 and 21 are just not equipped to do college-level work. I hear so many say ‘well, I got As in high school’ when they can hardly pay attention in class or turn in assignments on time. Many of them consider it a game, or not part of the “real” world, when actually we’re trying our darndest to prepare them for life after college. College experiences among youth today are too focused on Greek life, sporting events, and other social stuff like finding Mr. or Ms. Right, while academics gets tossed to the backburner. It’s probably a better idea for parents/students to save their money and attend college later when the typical student is more prepared and more mature to handle the type of work required.

    Another major assumption in this article is that a college education trains one for a career. In our current economic situation, this is just not true. The vast majority of students leaving college with bachelor’s or master’s degree in hand end up working service industry type jobs, i.e. starbucks and the like. That simply is not a career. In many ways, this is the fault of higher education, which has not adapted to the new economic milieu. The only students actually getting career training in college are the few who are highly motivated and know exactly what they want to do. They typically pick majors related to the medical field, engineering, or computer science. One of the most popular majors on my campus is business and banking and finance, which is probably not a bad choice. Yet I hear from a number of recent graduates that internships, usually unpaid, were the only job opportunities open to them. A few with MBAs even said this was the case.

    Point is, parents/recent high school graduates should consider other options rather than college, which is more and more a waste of time and money. Trade school offers wonderful training in numerous well-paying careers. For the youth out there that may wish to learn electrical type work, there’s $150,000 annual salaries out there waiting and in this country we’re losing electricians to retirement left and right. Auto mechanics is another field in which there’s lots of employment available and fewer trained applicants. College is not the end-all, be-all of a youth’s career development and other options should be explored.