Editor’s note: This is the first in a series about test scores at schools in and around Carter County.

Ardmore High School’s ACT scores have fallen in the last five years, but Superintendent Kim Holland said that’s balanced by the increasing number of students who take the test.  
Since 2013, the number of AHS students taking the test has increased from 88 to 184 and composite exam scores have fallen from a 20.3 to a 16.9. In that time, the state average fell from a 20.8 to a 19.4 and the number of tested students rose from 28,988 to 42,405.
“By going ahead and exposing these kids to it, some kids will change their mind and decide they want to go [to college],” Holland said. “And if they haven’t taken this test, it can limit where they can go and what they can do, so we wanted to give our kids every opportunity.”
Last year, the state    
department of education introduced a program that allowed all graduating seniors to take the ACT for free. This year, Oklahoma saw a 29 percent increase in graduates who took the exam. As more kids take the ACT, the average scores drop. Statewide, participation increased from 32,854 students last year to 42,405 students this year and the average composite score dropped one point, from a 20.4 to a 19.4.
“We knew our scores would drop but we felt like the benefits to our kids were worth the drop,” Holland said. “If you take 88 of our top kids, our scores would be around the state average.”
Holland said the push for more ACT testing is part of the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s effort to overhaul testing standards and focus more on college prep after common core was repealed last year.  
 “Test scores across the state are going to drop because they’ve changed the system and the benchmarks you have to reach to be successful,” Holland said. “ACT is a part of that push. We got a jumpstart on that, which certainly helps.”
Since 2012, ACS has received funding for test prep from a federal grant program called Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP. The school used the grant to start an ACT tutoring program, after school tutoring and more curriculum training for teachers.  
“We also started doing a freshman orientation, because we had a real issue with freshman coming into the high school and really struggling their first semester,” Holland said.