DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - The majority of Mississippi high school students aren't ready for college when they graduate, according to recently released ACT test scores.
More than 28,000 high school students take the ACT tests in Mississippi. Their average score is an 18.7 out of a possible 36 points, which is more than two points behind students in the rest of the U.S., whose average is a 21.1.
The ACT judges how prepared students are in English, math, reading and science. Mississippi's state scores are the lowest in the nation in every one of those subjects.
But those numbers aren't a reflection of Mid-South students. In DeSoto County it's a different story.
"We are ahead of the state," says Ryan Kuykendall, director of accountability and research for DeSoto County schools. "We're usually .7 or .8 as far ahead of the average score."
Educators there say there's no quick fix or special secret.
"We have good teaching across the board from K-12," says Dr. April Holifield-Scott. "That shows in our ACT scores."
But there is one thing the county is doing differently.
Four years ago, it began offering special prep courses for standardized tests. High performing students who are already making good grades can take the class as an elective to get even better.
"We've had several students with a perfect score in last few years," says Holifield-Scott. "It's from students in those prep courses."
Students learn test taking strategies, are drilled on content and are taught by three teachers per class.
The program started at Southaven High School and has been so successful it's now in all eight DeSoto County high schools.
One reason Mississippi scores are so low is because it's one of nine states requiring every high school senior to take the test, even those not going to college. School officials say that can skew the numbers lower.