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Missouri and Illinois ACT scores on par with national average

A person filling in a standardized test bubble sheet with a pencil.
Flickr | Alberto G.

The latest statewide averages for ACT scores are out, and for the first time both Missouri and Illinois have a complete picture of how well their students did.

With 100 percent of 2016 graduating seniors participating, Missouri students scored an average of 20.2 and Illinois students scored an average of 20.8 out of 36.

Missouri’s average is down by a point and a half this year compared to last year’s results, but state education department spokeswoman Sarah Potter said the decrease was expected because it was the first time all Missouri graduates took the test, adding an additional 18,000 test takers to the pool of scores.

“Most of those 18,000 are students who were not college-bound, we believe,” Potter said. “Because you have, instead of a sample of the data, you have a complete data, you really can’t compare that composite score from last year to the composite score this year.”

Potter said the state wanted to fund ACT participation to get a baseline for how Missouri is doing in its goal to be a top-10 state for education by 2020.

“We’re seeing how those students really are when they’re graduating when we didn’t really have an idea before,” Potter said. "It’s important to compare our students with other states that are also testing 100 percent of their students. And once again, as we see with other measures, Missouri is kind of in the middle of those 18 states who are testing 100 percent of their students.”

Illinois’ average score bumped up by a tenth of a point from 2015, giving the state the same average score as the nation despite having a higher participation rate. About 64 percent of graduating seniors took the exam nationwide.

“Our graduates continue to show progress,” said Illinois State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith in a statement. “The work of improving opportunities for all students and increasing the pace of progress is one we approach with urgency.”

Missouri started offering a state-funded ACT exam to all juniors in 2015, making 2016 the first graduating class with 100 percent ACT participation.

The ACT became optional for Illinois public school students in 2015 after 14 years of being required of all public school juniors. But the state board of education continued to pay for the exam in 2015, and the 2016 average continued to have 100 percent participation.

Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.