Minnesota's ACT scores remain high
Contrary to the national average, Minnesota's average score on the ACT college entrance exam held steady this year and remains among the best in the nation.
The state's average score of 22.1 out of a possible 36 was second-best among states where more than half of high school seniors took the test. It was more than a point higher than the national average score, which declined for the first time in 13 years.
Using scores students received on the latest ACT they took, 2002 graduates averaged a composite of 20.8, down from the 21 average maintained from 1997 to 2001.
ACT Inc., a non-profit based in Iowa City, Iowa, said the drop was to be expected because Illinois and Colorado began requiring that all high school juniors, starting with the class of 2002, take the test whether or not they are enrolled in college-prep courses.
More students than ever took the ACT, 1.12 million of this year's graduates, or about 46,000 more than last year.
In Minnesota, scores on the math and reading parts of the test improved from last year. Science scores held steady, and English declined slightly.
"Going up in two of the four is good, so we like the direction," said Phil Lewenstein, director of communications for the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office.
The ACT, the most commonly used college entrance exam in 25 states located mostly in the Midwest and South, was taken by more than 1.1 million high school seniors last year.
In Minnesota, about 65 percent -- or almost 40,900 -- of graduating seniors took the exam, a slightly smaller proportion of the senior class compared with past years.
"We want to watch that," Lewenstein said, "and make sure it doesn't keep going down."
While Asian-American students are more likely to take the ACT than white students, less than half of black and Hispanic seniors take the test and just 29 percent of American Indian students take it, according to a report issued last year by the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership.
Scores by racial group in Minnesota generally are not broken out because the number of participating students is so small. Just 186 of the state's American Indian students took the test.
Minnesota students who took a college-prep curriculum in high school -- four or more years of English and three or more years each of math, social sciences and natural sciences -- received scores an average of 2.6 points higher than those of students who did not take such classes.