Missouri ACT scores hold steady
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 19, 2009 - For the fifth year in a row, the composite ACT score for Missouri students remains flat, prompting state Education Commissioner Chris L. Nicastro to say the state must do better.
In data released this morning, Nicastro's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) had no immediate breakdown of how students performed by school districts. But she noted in a statement that "there remains a major performance gap for minority students on the ACT, and we must focus attention on that fact.
"The entire education community must come together to make sure that all kids have the support they need to be successful in school and on the ACT."
The composite score for Missouri students was stuck at 21.6, according to data released this morning. That's slightly higher than the national average of 21.1, which also didn't change from the 2008 average. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score. Click here to read about results from Illinois.
The ACT is the test that most Missouri students take before entering college. Colleges use the scores to help determine whether students can do college-level work.
According to DESE, 46,923 students, representing 67 percent of graduates in the high school class of 2009, took the exam. DESE says only about 5 percent of Missouri graduates took the SAT before entering college.
State officials said only 25 percent of Missouri students met the ACT-defined benchmarks in all four subject areas: English composition, algebra, biology and social sciences. But officials said they were encouraged by the fact that Missouri's standing was higher than the national average of 23 percent.
Although Missouri's composite score is higher than the national average, Nicastro says most high school grads in the state are failing to meet the "college readiness benchmarks" for earning at least a "C" in typical course at a four-year college.
She said, "We need to raise the rigor, across the board, for most of our students. Too many kids need remediation when they get to college, too many struggle to meet collegiate expectations, and too many never finish their degrees. We must be concerned that so many students are leaving Missouri high schools without the knowledge and skills they need to make the most of their college experience."
She said the scores also showed high schools must align curriculum and raise expectations for staff and students. In 2005, Nicastro notes, DESE adopted new high school graduation requirements for Missouri public school students. The standards take full effect this year and will apply to the class of 2010. Under the new requirements, students must earn 24 credits, including four in English, and three each in math, science and social studies.
Nicastro said she is confident the new requirements will contribute to increased college readiness and higher ACT scores because many students "will be required to take additional core academic classes under these standards. This will translate into better preparation and better performance."