ACT by the numbers: Oklahoma students average in the region, below national averages

ACT test data for the 2010-11 academic year in the United States became available early today (Wednesday, August 17). A review of the information as provided by ACT, Inc. puts Oklahoma’s graduating seniors who took the examination in roughly the same place their predecessors have garnered for most of the past two decades – below the national average, and near the middle of the regional average in most categories.

While reading and English scores in Oklahoma fall just a bit below the national average, the state comparatively “tanks” in Mathematics and Science.

In sum, Oklahoma students taking the ACT test continue to rank below the national average. The composite score for the 76 percent of graduating state high school seniors who took the test was 20.7, while 21.1 is the national average.

The Sooner State’s students fell in the mid-range among the cluster of regional states. In Kansas, where 79 percent of graduates take the college preparatory test, the composite score was 22 percent. In rank order, the other neighboring composites (and in parentheses, percentage of graduates taking the exam) were: Missouri 21.6 (71), Texas 20.8 (36), Colorado 20.7 (100), Arkansas 19.9 (91), and New Mexico 19.8 (72).

In nearby Louisiana, where the border does not touch Oklahoma, 100 percent of students take the ACT. The composite score of students in the Cajun State was 20.2.

Graduating high school students in Oklahoma continued to take the ACT in high numbers, far above the national average of only 49 percent who took the widely (but not universally) accepted benchmark of college readiness.

Once again, Oklahomans taking the Act performed best in English and Reading, matching historic patterns in the results over many years.

In English, the Oklahoma average score was 20.5, third best in the region, and nearly equaling the national average of 20.6. The state average meant that 67 percent of Oklahoma graduates met the English language benchmark, essentially tied with the national average of 66 percent.

As for neighboring states, giving the average English score (and, in parentheses, the percentage meeting national benchmarks), Missouri’s English score was 21.5 (73), while the Kansas average was 21.4 (73), each ahead of Oklahoma’s score of 20.6. Behind the Sooner State in this ranking were Colorado at 20.1 (63), Texas at 19.6 (60), Arkansas at 19.6 (61) and New Mexico at 19 (55). The Louisiana scores for English – 20.4 on average – were fractionally below Oklahoma’s.

(National benchmarks for ACT are sketched at the end of this story.)

In Reading, Oklahoma’s average score reached reached 21.3, matching the national average score, with just over 52 percent of Sooner senior student readers meeting ACT’’s benchmarks.

In the region, the Sunflower State (Kansas) led the way at 22.3, with 60 percent at the national benchmark. The other states touching Oklahoma achieved these scores: Missouri 21.9 (56), Colorado, the Rocky Mountain State, trailed Oklahoma at 20.9 (49); Texas 20.7 (48), New Mexico 20.2 (44) and Arkansas 20.2 (44). Nearby Louisiana had a reading composite of 20.3, with 45 percent of students reaching the benchmark for the ACT.

Mathematics and Science continue to present major challenges to student achievement in Oklahoma, the region, and the entire nation.

Oklahomans taking the ACT scored 19.9 in Math, the state’s lowest score on any of the four subject areas. 19.9. Only 35 percent of Oklahoma students met the national benchmarks the testing organization assumes are needed for success in college. The state fell far below the national Math average of 21.2. Across America, only 45 percent of students achieved at or higher than the ACT benchmarks.

Kansas led the region with a 21.8 math score average, and 51 percent of its students meeting the benchmark. In Missouri, the Math score was 21, and 44 percent of those taking the test reached the benchmark. Other scores (and percentages meeting the benchmark) in our region: Texas 21.5 (48), Colorado 20.4 (40), Arkansas 19.7 (33) and New Mexico 19.5 (32). Louisiana in this case had a 19.7 composite, with one-third of those tested at the benchmarks.

In Science, the Oklahoma average was 20.6, with only 25 percent of graduating seniors tested meeting the ACT’s college preparatory threshold. The state was slightly below the national average score of 20.9, a mark meaning that only 30 percent of test-takers nationally made the threshold.

Kansas was best in the region at 21.9, but only 34 percent of the state’s students met the ACT college prep thresholds. As for the Show Me State, Missouri students averaged 21.6 (32), with the following data for the other states: Lone Star State students were at 20.8 (28), Colorado 20.7 (29), and New Mexico 20 (21) The Land of Opportunity – Arkansas – score for graduating seniors was 19.8 (21 percent matched or exceeded the national thresholds). Louisiana’s science average was 20.1, meaning 21 percent of its students were at the threshold.

According to ACT, “Benchmarks are scores on the ACT subject area tests that represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses. 

“These college courses include English Composition, College Algebra, Biology, and an introductory social science course. Based on a nationally representative sample, the Benchmarks are median course placement values for these institutions and as such represent a typical set of expectations.”