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ACT Scores Point to Need for More Rigor

By Janet Barresi
State Superintendent of Public Instruction

The recent release of ACTs annual Condition of College and Career readiness report got my attention for several reasons.

First, Oklahoma continues to have a high percentage of high school seniors taking the ACT. That figure grew this year to 76 percent, up from 73 percent last year. That’s a trend we want to see continue.

The state’s average composite score, however, has remained at 20.7 since 2007. That is something we must improve.

I’m concerned that too many students are not prepared for college courses in the areas of science and math. I’m concerned, also, that were still behind the national average in both our overall composite score and in all but one of our sub scores.

While, were level with the nation in English scores, an analysis of College Readiness Benchmark scores for math and science shows that ACT-tested students in Oklahoma were a full 10 percentage points below the national percent of ACT-tested high school graduates in math and five percentage points below the national percent in science.

We must redouble our efforts to make more students capable in math and science so they will be prepared not only for college but to secure their place in the workforce of the 21st century. We want Oklahoma students to be able to get the best and highest paying jobs available to them. Science, technology, engineering and math are beginning to pervade almost every profession, and our students must be engaged in these subjects if they are going to succeed.

ACTs analysis showed, for example, that of 2011 ACT-tested high school graduates interested in health care, only 16 percent met the college readiness benchmark for math and only 11 percent met the benchmark for science. Of those indicating an interest in health care, only 37 percent met benchmarks for reading.

We need to continue to push our students to take four years of English, math and science courses. Research is clear that students who take four years in these areas are better prepared for careers and college.

The ACT report also showed improved scores for minorities this year, but there is still a learning gap. We want to make sure all educators are focusing on our minority populations, working to get them to participate in more Advanced Placement courses so that they have every chance to succeed alongside their peers.

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