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August 18, 2004 :: ACT Scores Up Slightly – Math Worries Continue

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The average ACT composite score increased in 2004, both nationally and in Oklahoma, but state higher education leaders continue to be concerned. The ACT scores are an indicator of how well students are prepared for college and they show that a large number of Oklahoma students continue to be underprepared, especially for college math and science courses.

Overall, there was a mixture of positive and negative news in the report that was released nationally on August 18.

Oklahoma’s composite score rose one-tenth of a point to 20.6, compared to the 20.5 reported each of the last three years. The national average also rose one-tenth of a point to 20.9, the first national increase in three years. That means that Oklahoma student scores continue to lag behind the national average. The highest score possible is 36.

Oklahoma high school graduates maintained an average score of 20.4 in English, equaling the national average. Reading improved to 21.2, just one-tenth of a point below the national average of 21.3.

Statewide scores in math and science increased by one-tenth of a point to 19.8 and 20.6 respectively. Despite these increases, a performance gap in math and science remains when compared to the national averages of 20.7 in math and 20.9 in science

“We should be concerned about the lack of significant long-term progress on the math scores,” said Chancellor Paul Risser. “Well-paying jobs increasingly demand the kind of skills acquired from taking more math. Only 50 percent of the latest high school class is ready for college algebra. This is due, in large part, to students not taking enough years of rigorous math courses.”

The number and percentage of African American and American Indian students taking the test increased. The total number of participants fell to 26,556, compared to 27,009 who took the test last year; however, the percentage of high school graduates taking the ACT remained about the same at more than 71 percent because the number of high school graduates in Oklahoma declined this year.

“I hope that the number of high school students taking the ACT continues to increase,” said Risser. “Taking the ACT test is an important step toward college attendance.”

Risser also pointed out that, according to the ACT data, the percentage of Oklahoma students taking the recommended ACT core courses this school year slipped slightly from 59 percent to 58 percent, 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 rigorous 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 number 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 21.7. For those students who took less than core, their average was 18.9. Nationally, the figures are 21.9 for core or more and 19.4 for less than core.

Download an executive summary of the 2004 Oklahoma ACT Assessment results here. (PDF, 24K).