When Ian Keith, a 17-year-old senior at Brighton High School, took the ACT last July for the fourth time, it had been nearly two years since the third time he took the test.
Unlike just about every other student, he did not take an ACT prep course during his junior year.
None of that mattered.
Keith scored a perfect score of 36. He’s the first Brighton High student to ever get a perfect score. In the Class of 2019, 1.8 million students took the ACT. Fewer than .5 percent posted a 36.
He got the news last month second hand. Because of technical difficulties he was locked out of his ACT online account and could not check himself.
Pamela Moffatt, his guidance counselor at Brighton High, got the news first.
“I called his mom excited and she was like, ‘What?'” Moffatt said. “I said, ‘Are you sitting down?’ I think she pretty much knew from the sound of my voice that he had a 36 … I pretty much freaked out. We were all excited because this is not something that happens on a regular basis in Tipton County. It is a big deal and it should be celebrated, just like winning a state championship. I mean, this is huge.”
Moffatt relayed the news to assistant principal Brantley Tillman who then told BHS principal Brian Norton during a teacher inservice meeting.
“Tillman just couldn’t wait until he was done talking,” Moffatt said. “He whispered it in his ear. Dr. Norton was like, ‘We have an announcement. The teachers went crazy.”
Heather Keith, Ian’s mom and the librarian at Munford High School, texted the news to Ian.
“I was very excited because it was something I wanted,” Ian said. “I was almost kind of in disbelief because I couldn’t get into my account to see it for myself.”
For a fleeting moment, he questioned whether or not it was true.
“I was a little bit scared because all I had was my mom telling me, but I figured I could trust my mom,” he said with a laugh.
He took the test for the first time as a seventh-grader and posted a 23. He got a 34 the summer after his freshman year and a 35 as a sophomore.
Keith didn’t take ACT prep because, well, there was really no need.
“It would be more advantageous for him to study what he knew he needed to study rather than be in a class full of people who got a 16 or a 17,” Moffatt said.
Keith said he checked out a book from the library about studying for the ACT and got ready on his own.
“When you take it the first couple of times, you’re not sure what to expect,” Keith said. “By the third or fourth time you know’s what’s coming.”
Not only did he score a 36, but he got a 36 in each of the four categories: math, science, reading and English.
Keith said getting a 36 was a goal, but it was not a do-or-die kind of thing.
“I, of course, wanted a 36,” Keith said. “It’s a great accomplishment. If it hadn’t happened it would not have been the end of the world because I already had a pretty great score, a really great score. It was free so there was really no reason for me to not go and try, If you can improve, why not improve?”
Math and science are his favorite subjects. When he was interviewed by a reporter earlier this week he was a wearing shirt with the following message printed on it: “I wish life was as simple as calculus.”
Keith has a 4.0 GPA and is in line to become Brighton’s valedictorian. Recently he was named a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, one of about 16,000 students in the world to achieve that this year. He plans on studying engineering at Freed-Hardeman or Harding University.
“Ian has been on my radar since his 10-grade year,” Moffatt said. “When they score that high we try to make sure they do other things. We wanted what was best for him to help him grow. He has goals and actually puts forth the effort to be invested and reach those goals. That’s something that’s not very common for a high school student, to be that self-aware.”