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Glass: All Iowa students should take ACT

August 18, 2011
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald Des Moines (SPECIAL) - Iowa should join a growing number of states that have adopted the ACT college entrance exam as a requirement at the high school level, Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass said in response to ACT’s annual nationwide release of assessment results on Wednesday.

“The ACT is an important benchmark that helps us look at how well our schools are preparing all students for college and careers,” Glass said. “As we move toward whole system improvement in Iowa education, we would expect to see improvement in college and career readiness.”

Glass applauded Iowa’s second-highest average ACT composite score among states that tested more than half of students in the Class of 2011. Iowa scored 22.3 out of a possible 36. Minnesota was first in the nation, with 22.9. The national average was 21.1.

The 22,968 Iowa students who took the ACT comprised 61 percent of last spring’s graduating seniors, a slight increase from the previous year.

Still, a closer look at Iowa’s participation rate shows the distribution of test-takers does not match the state’s demographics.

A total of 61.5 percent of white students took the ACT. This was a much higher percentage than Hispanic students (39 percent), African American students (34 percent) and Native American students (37 percent).

“There is a lot of room for growth in assessing college and career readiness for all Iowa students,” Glass said.

Nationwide, ACT has experienced unprecedented growth in the number of students tested over the past decade, as well as statewide partnerships in 10 states and in many districts across the country.

In Iowa, this is the second year that all graduating seniors from Des Moines Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, are included in the state’s ACT profile.

The state profile also includes results from the Clinton school district, which tested all high school juniors for the first time in the 2009-10 school year.

ACT officials say increased access to the test helps steer more students toward higher education and allows states and school districts to evaluate how well students are being prepared for college and careers.

Illinois, for example, requires the ACT for all public high school juniors, unless they’re exempt, as part of an effort to measure how well students are meeting state learning standards. Results in that state show an upward trend over time. The average composite score increased from 20.5 in 2006 to 20.9 in 2011.

Iowa’s average composite score is slightly higher than last year’s statewide composite score of 22.2, but is unchanged from 2007.

This year’s state results also show:

• More Iowa students are taking at least three years each of math, science and social studies and at least four years of English in high school. Seventy-nine percent – or 18,228 students – reported that they took these core courses, up from 17,990 students in 2010. The number is expected to increase as students meet statewide graduation requirements.

• Iowa students who reported taking core courses earned an average composite ACT score of 23, while those who took lighter course loads had an average composite score of 19.8.

• Thirty-one percent of test-takers met all four of ACT’s college readiness benchmarks, up from 30 percent from the previous year. Nationwide, 25 percent of students met all four benchmarks.

The benchmarks specify the minimum scores needed to show a student has a 50 percent chance of earning a grade of B or higher, or about a 75 percent chance of earning a C grade or higher, in a typical first-year college course in English, mathematics, reading and science.



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