This year, and last year as well, Utah students earned the nation’s highest ACT scores, compared with other states where all students participate in the test, reports Benjamin Wood of Deseret News. Twelve states including Utah tested all high school juniors in 2014, nine states more than in 2013.
“All Utah students, their parents and their teachers can take pride in this achievement,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Martell Menlove said in a prepared statement.
Utah fell below the national average of a 21 score, but in states where testing is not universal, only college-bound students typically choose to take the ACT, which could, potentially inflate scores. Another pertinent fact is that nationally, 57% of students took the ACT in 2014, compared to 100% participation in Utah, the same percentage as the other 11 full participation states.
“What makes this report so significant is that it includes all Utah students,” Menlove said. “The number of Utah Hispanic students taking the ACT has nearly tripled in the past five years. The number of Pacific Islander students taking the test has nearly doubled in four years. These scores represent our school population as a whole, not just those who plan to attend college.”
The test sets “benchmarks in each of the test’s four subjects – English, math, reading, and science”. The benchmarks measure the likelihood of a student to achieve a passing grade in college-level courses. One out of four students in Utah met all four benchmarks; 63% met the English benchmark. Less than one-half met benchmarks in the remaining subjects. Utah System of Higher Education spokeswoman Melanie Heath says that the state’s goal is having two-thirds of its adults earning a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2020.
Near the back of the pack is the state of Florida. It ranked 47th in the nation on the ACT, writes Allison Nielson for the Sunshine State News. The average ACT score was 19.6, nearly 1.5 points lower than the national composite average. This number is the same as last year’s average score.
Florida has ranked in the mid-to-bottom 40s in the ranking scale in the last decade, causing critics to call the results a symptom of “a systematic failure in the nation’s education system” and “too great a focus on standardized testing.”
“The lack of progress toward excellence and equity will provide further ammunition for the country’s growing testing resistance and reform movement,” said FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “Ending the counterproductive fixation on standardized exams is necessary to create the space for better assessments that actually enhance learning and teaching.”
It should be noted that 5,000 more students took the exam in 2014 than did last year, which could be interpreted as an increase in student interest in continuing on to college.
Alabama had 21% of students who met ACT’s benchmark for being ready to earn a grade of B or higher in a typical first-year college, writes Evan Belanger of the Alabama Media Group. Nationally 26% of the 1.8 million test-takers met the benchmark in all subject areas. Alabama pays for all high school juniors to take the ACT.
In Illinois, students scored a 20.7 average score, up from 20.6 last year, but falling just below the national average of 21.
Compared to the dozen states that give the test to all their high school graduates, Illinois scored the second-highest. The state requires all high school juniors to take the ACT, but will change to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests for next year, which tie into the Common Core. Still, for those districts that want the ACT administered, the state board has received state funding to cover the costs of administering both tests.