Iowa Students Among Nation’s Best in ACT Results

By Rod Boshart, Reporter

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By Aaron Hepker

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa high school students tied with Wisconsin for the second-highest average ACT composite score among states that tested more than half of students in the class of 2013.

Iowa and Wisconsin scored 22.1 out of a possible 36. Iowa’s average composite score was unchanged from last year, according to information released Wednesday by the Iowa Department of Education.

Minnesota was first in the nation with an average composite score of 23. The national average was 20.9.

“We are proud of Iowa’s performance on this important assessment, but we still have a lot of work to do to prepare our students for success after high school,” D.T. Magee, the state education department’s interim director said in response to ACT’s annual nationwide release of assessment results Wednesday.

“We must make sure that all students are ready for college and career training,” Magee added in his statement. “The ACT is a valuable tool in helping us gauge how those efforts are moving forward.”

According to state education officials, 32 percent of Iowa students met all four of ACT’s college readiness benchmarks -- up from 30 percent in the previous year.

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 or higher, in a typical first-year college course in English, mathematics, reading and science. Nationwide, 26 percent of students met all four benchmarks.

Overall, the 22,526 Iowa students who took the ACT comprised 66 percent of last spring’s graduating class. That was up from the year’s 63 percent, although state education officials noted the number of test-takers decreased from 2012 because Iowa’s class of 2013 was smaller. In 2012, 23,119 students took the ACT.

“There is room for growth in assessing how prepared our students are for college and career training,” Magee said.

Nationwide, ACT has documented unprecedented growth in the number of students tested over the past decade. This year represented the largest test-taking group ever, with 54 percent of the nation’s students taking the ACT. Nine states tested 100 percent of their students in 2013.

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.

This year’s state results also show 79 percent of tested students took at least three years each of math, science and social studies and at least four years of English in high school. ACT research has shown students who take these core courses are more likely to be ready for college and career training than those who do not, officials said.

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