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ACT scores remain stable nationwide

By By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
Aug. 21, 2003
Even though a record number of high school graduates took the American College Test this year, the average national composite score remained stable.
Some educators say scores from the national college entrance exam, commonly called the ACT, suggests some seniors may not be ready for college court work particularly in math and science.
In Mississippi, 88 percent of high school seniors took the test this year and recorded an average composite score of 18.7. The national average composite was 20.8 the same as 2002.
The highest possible score a student can receive on the ACT is a 36. This year, almost 1.2 million graduates took the exam about 40 percent of all graduating seniors nationally.
ACT officials say this year's national results show that many graduates have not mastered the skills they need to be ready for first-year science and math courses that will count toward their college degrees.
Just 26 percent of 2003 graduates nationwide earned a score of 24 or higher on the ACT science test. About 40 percent of the graduates earned a score of 22 or higher on the ACT math test.
ACT research shows that students who attain those benchmark scores are more likely than others to be ready for college biology and algebra courses. Those students have a high probability of completing first-year courses with at least a grade of C.
About 67 percent of 2003 graduates earned a score of 18 or higher on the ACT English test. ACT officials say research indicates those students likely have the skills necessary for college English composition classes.
Students who have higher-level skills and ACT test scores in these subject areas are better positioned to succeed in the coursework necessary to pursue science- and math-related careers.
ACT science and math scores are particularly low nationwide among black students.
Just 5 percent of black students scored at or above the college readiness benchmark ACT scores for college biology. Just 10 percent attained the readiness benchmark for college algebra.
ACT officials say the main reason many students lack high-level skills in math and science is that too few take challenging coursework in high school. Less than 62 percent of tested graduates this year took the recommended core course work for college.
Students who take higher-level courses beyond the regular curriculum tend to earn higher ACT scores and are better prepared for college.
Graduates in 2003 who took four or more years of math in high school earned an average ACT composite score of 23.4, compared to 19.3 for those who took less than four years of math.
In addition, those who took three or more years of science, including physics, earned an average composite score of 22.6, compared to 19.4 for others.