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August 17, 2005 :: College Readiness Down, Diversity Up, ACT Report Shows

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Average ACT scores in Oklahoma for 2005 took a dip compared to last year, but higher education officials aren’t totally surprised or alarmed by the drop.

Data released by ACT today shows that seniors who took the ACT test last spring scored an average of 20.4, which is two-tenths of a scale point lower than last year’s overall score of 20.6. The national average remained steady at 20.9.

The gap between the state and national averages is always a concern, according to higher education officials. However, they are feeling optimistic that a more diverse group of students see college in their future.

“When this class took the pre-ACT PLAN test two years ago, scores were lower than in previous years. So, this drop in ACT scores was expected,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “However, we also commend principals and superintendents statewide who have reached out to first-generation, low-income and minority students and helped them take the ACT on their path to college.”

Risser added that educators and business leaders agree nationally that the skills necessary to enter college and the workforce have merged. Even with a more diverse group of students taking the ACT, it remains vital that all students exit high school with the knowledge, skills and abilities to be successful in their chosen career path.

According to ACT, about 33 percent of test takers last spring were minorities, and the largest increase was in Hispanic students with the number taking the test increasing by nearly 300 students since 2001. Risser indicated that State Regents’ outreach efforts within the Hispanic community, as well as the recent passage of a state law allowing children of undocumented immigrants easier access to a college education, may have played a part in the increase.

According to the report from ACT, scores in every subject area, including English, math, reading and science, fell either one- or two-tenths of a scale point compared to 2004. It also indicates that 61 percent of Oklahoma students are academically ready to take college-level English, while just 49 percent are ready to take college-level math at Oklahoma colleges and universities.

This year’s average ACT scores, when compared to the 10th grade PLAN results, indicate that most students are not taking the challenging math and science courses they need to better their chances for success in college. Students’ score gains between 10th and 12th grades show lower academic gains than expected based on the course content they should encounter during their junior and senior years of high school.

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.

“I think some clear messages can be taken from Oklahoma’s latest ACT scores,” State Regents’ Chairman Cheryl P. Hunter said. “We absolutely must address the gap that has widened between our students and their national counterparts in all of the subject areas and continue working to narrow those gaps, especially in math, our state’s weakest point. Our students must also be challenged to take more rigorous courses in high school, especially in their junior and senior years. At the same time, we must also continue to support every student’s dream of college and help as many Oklahoma students as possible understand that a college degree is within reach.”

Download an executive summary of the 2005 Oklahoma ACT Assessment results here. (PDF, 98K).