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August 16, 2006 :: State Sees Some Gain in ACT Scores, National Gap Widens

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Oklahoma high school seniors who took the ACT test last spring fared slightly better than their 2005 state counterparts, a new report shows.

Data released today by ACT shows that this year’s senior class scored an average of 20.5 on the ACT test, which is one-tenth of a scale point higher than last year’s overall score of 20.4.

The national average also increased from last year but at a slightly higher rate, from 20.9 in 2005 to 21.1 in 2006.

Although higher education officials say they are pleased that the state’s scores show improvement, they are concerned that the gap between Oklahoma’s score and the rest of the nation has widened. Since 2002, Oklahoma’s average ACT score has fluctuated somewhere between 20.4 and 20.6, while the national average has steadily increased at least one-tenth of a scale point every year.

“It’s good to see that Oklahoma’s average ACT scores have remained somewhat steady during the last four years; however, we cannot expect our students to be competitive in the job market unless they perform better in the classroom,” Interim Chancellor Phil Moss said.

Moss said he was encouraged that more Oklahoma minority students are taking the ACT than ever before, noting that 43 percent more Hispanics students and 23 percent more African-American students took the test in 2006 than in 2002. Regardless, Moss said Oklahoma must do a better job of preparing all of its students for the rigors of college work.

“Even with a more diverse group of students taking the ACT, it remains vital that all our students exit high school with the knowledge, skills and abilities to be successful in college and in their chosen career path,” Moss said.

According to the report from ACT, scores in the subject areas of math and reading improved from 2005 by one-tenth of a scale point. Scores in English and science remain unchanged from last year. The report also showed that 66 percent of Oklahoma students are academically ready to take college-level English, while just 32 percent are ready to take college algebra at Oklahoma colleges and universities.

This year’s average ACT scores indicate that most students are still not taking the challenging math and science courses they need to improve their chances for success in college. A total of 21 percent of Oklahoma students take only algebra I and II and geometry and subsequently score an average of 17.1 on the ACT math subject test. Many students also fell short of the college readiness benchmarks in physical and natural sciences.

There may be some encouraging news for the near future, however. About 49 percent of Oklahoma eighth graders and 45 percent of Oklahoma 10th graders are on track to be ready for college-level work when they graduate high school. For example, 10th graders performed better than their national counterparts on each of the four subject tests and the composite as part of this past year’s PLAN test, a pre-ACT test that is given to about 95 percent of Oklahoma’s 10th graders. Eighth graders take a similar assessment called EXPLORE.

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. Since 2001, the State Regents have required students to take a minimum of 15 core courses to be eligible for college admission.

The Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE) legislation passed this past legislative session will bring high school graduation requirements in line with college admission and the ACT-recommended core college-preparatory curriculum. The State Regents believe this will significantly improve students’ readiness for college and the workplace as well as the state’s ACT scores.