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August 20, 2003 :: ACT Participation Rate Increases; Minority Students Show Significant Achievement Gains

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More Oklahoma students are taking the ACT test than at any other time, and scores are remaining steady, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education learned recently. In addition, minority students, especially African American students, posted score gains in key content areas.

Recent figures released by ACT, Inc. showed that Oklahoma’s composite ACT score for the class of 2003 was 20.5, the same score Oklahoma students posted in 2001 and 2002. The national average is 20.8, the same score as in 2002 and lower than the 21.0 in 2001. The highest score possible on the ACT assessment is 36.

More than 27,000 students, or 73 percent of the 2003 high school graduating class, took the ACT. This is an increase from 70.9 percent last year and from 65.5 percent ten years ago.

Although the average composite score for all Oklahoma students remained the same during the last three years, the report showed that more students are taking the test, especially African American students. Eight percent more African American students took the ACT test this year, improving their overall score by one-tenth of a point. This is all the more impressive because scores typically drop when more students take the test. Caucasian students also improved one-tenth of a point since last year, while Native Americans remained unchanged.

Oklahoma high school graduates improved one-tenth of a point in both the English and reading sections of the ACT. The average score in English was 20.4, which exceeds the national average of 20.3. Reading improved to 21.1, just one-tenth of a point below the national average of 21.2. Reading scores for African American students in Oklahoma improved three-tenths of a point since last year.

Statewide, scores in math and science remained steady at 19.7 and 20.5, respectively. However, African American student performance showed a substantial jump in science, scoring an average of four-tenths of a point higher than in 2002. Native American students improved one-tenth of a scale point. The national average was 20.6 in math and 20.8 in science.

“I am encouraged to see that more students took the test, especially within the African American community, and that they scored higher compared with last year. Our minority students, especially African Americans, are making significant gains compared to their national counterparts both in increases in test taking and performance,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “Still, we had hoped to see greater gains in overall math performance, which is the weakest core subject for Oklahoma students.”

Risser pointed out that, according to the ACT data, 59 percent of Oklahoma students reported taking the recommended ACT core courses this school year compared with 53 percent in 2002, noting that students greatly increase their chances of succeeding in college when they take a strong, core high school curriculum.

ACT defines the core college-preparatory curriculum as four years or more of English and three years or more of math, social sciences and natural sciences. Their research shows that students who prepare academically by taking a core high school program consistently score higher on the ACT than those who do not. State Regents have required students to take a minimum of 15 core courses since 2001 to be eligible for college admission.

According to the latest ACT results, Oklahoma students who took at least the minimum amount of core courses fared several points better than those that took less than core. Those students who took core or more posted an average composite score of 21.6. For those students who took less than core, their average was 18.8. Nationally, the figures are 21.8 for core or more and 19.3 for less than core.

“The fact that more of our students are taking the ACT core course is certainly good news for Oklahoma, but the fact still remains that many of our students are not ready for college-level work, especially in science and math,” State Regents Chairman Ike Glass said. “While Oklahoma is one of three southern states that made gains on the ACT national average during the past decade, we must expect more from our students and our education system if Oklahoma is to play a leading role on the world’s economic stage.”

State Regents have undertaken several initiatives during the past decade to help students better prepare for college. Not only have they increased the high school curricular requirements for college admission from 11 to 15 units, they also implemented the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS).

EPAS benefits students, parents and schools by providing information on eighth and 10th grade student achievement and how they are progressing toward college readiness in core content areas. EPAS reaches more than 95 percent of the state’s eighth and 10th graders through the EXPLORE and PLAN assessments.

Download an executive summary of the 2003 Oklahoma ACT Assessment results here. (PDF, 208k)