Destrehan High junior achieves a perfect 36 on ACT 

Kaden Kirtland aimed for perfection and perfection is what he found.

The Destrehan High School junior recently achieved an exceptionally rare milestone, scoring a perfect 36 on the ACT

Nationally, while the actual number of students earning a composite score of 36 varies from year to year, on average, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of students who take the ACT earns the top score. Exceptional scores of 36 provide colleges with evidence of student readiness for the academic rigors that lie ahead. 

“I thought I’d done well once I was finished … I wasn’t confident as far as a 36, but I was confident I’d done well,” Kirtland said. “So, it came as a surprise when I opened up the (ACT) site and saw what I had.”

His thought upon seeing the perfect score? 

“Nothing I can say that wouldn’t get censored, honestly,” Kirtland joked. 

Kirtland had taken the test twice before: once in the summer of 2023 and once when he was 12. The 2023 test saw him land a 34, already an extremely high score. 

Nonetheless, he set the bar higher. 

“My goal this time was the 36,” Kirtland said. 

Because every junior student has to take the test – meaning simply settling on the 34 and sitting out this time was not an option – he wanted to make the absolute most of it. 

“I figured if I’m taking it again, for it to have any merit I needed the 36,” Kirtland said. 

He credited consistent encouragement from his teachers as part of what drove him to find that success. Kirtland said there were usually two practice sessions a week for the English and reading parts of the exam. 

“They really kept me going, preparing me to do well,” he said of his teachers.

Once testing day came, Kirtland relied heavily on his instincts, letting the preparation take over. 

“I went with my gut,” he said. “I didn’t double check or change any of my answers because I knew if I did that, I’d end up changing a correct answer – that’s an even worse feeling that just getting it wrong to begin with. So, I’d say ‘don’t look back’ was how I approached it.”

While he still has another year to go at Destrehan, following graduation, Kirtland plans to attend a four-year college and pursue a career in computer science or video game programming. 

“That’s been in my head consistently – being a game designer,” Kirtland said. “That field has been something I’ve been attached to since I was very young and I think I’ve always known I wanted to be doing something involved with that. Programming is a skill that came easy to me, so it made a lot of sense.

“I do have ideas for certain games. The big thing for games is it’s still a pretty new artform and it’s unexplored in many ways. I want to be one who’s out there exploring.”

While the percentage of perfect scores are scant, Destrehan High has nonetheless produced two students who have achieved the feat in the past year, with Ava Rockefeller hitting that mark in 2023. 

 

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