Oklahoma sets record in number of ACT test-takers

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 18-Aug-2010

State Superintendent Sandy Garrett said today (Wednesday, August 18) that more Oklahoma high school seniors are taking the ACT than ever in state history; among 2010 graduates, the ACT was taken by 28,343 students, which is 1,289 or 4.8 percent more than the year before. 

Higher expectations of students – clear in the ACE high school course requirements effective with the Class of 2010 – are “making a difference in the number of students being prepared for, and expressing an interest in, a college education.”

The ACE law (Achieving Classroom Excellence Act of 2005) required all high school students to complete a college-preparatory/work-ready curriculum beginning in the 2006-07 school year, which Garrett said is likely a reason more students are interested in higher education. 

“Typically, an increase in test-takers results in a lower average score, but that isn’t what is happening in Oklahoma,” Garrett said in her statement, provided late Tuesday to CapitolBeatOK. In 2010, more Oklahoma students reached ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks for all four content areas then in 2009. The state’s average ACT composite score for 2010 remains stable at 20.7, while the nation’s average has fallen 0.1 to 21.0. 

Oklahoma’s score and percent of graduating seniors taking the ACT remain among the highest in the South. While comparable percentages of graduating seniors take the ACT in many southern states, students in Oklahoma’s Class of 2010 outscored those in Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

“The greatest challenge in Oklahoma’s performance on the ACT college-entrance exam continues to be mathematics,” Garrett explained. Oklahoma’s 2010 subscore in math remains the same from the previous year. The state’s average science subscore increased, while English and reading decreased slightly, yet the state’s reading score remains its highest subscore on the ACT.

With 3 out of 4 Oklahoma seniors now taking the ACT – an indication they are interested in attending college – lawmakers and school leaders need to find better ways of convincing parents, students and teachers of math’s critical importance.

“While the state has increased expectations in mathematics in recent years, we simply must make math more of a priority for each Oklahoma child,” Garrett said, again calling for four years of math in high school. “There is a clear gulf between our students’ performance in mathematics and college-readiness benchmarks.”

The three largest minority student groups in Oklahoma – African American/Black, American Indian/Native American and Hispanic students – all posted higher ACT composite scores than their national counterparts in 2010. However, the gap between minority students’ average scores and that of their Caucasian peers is still significant.

In the five years since 2006:

      ·  The number of ACT test-takers in Oklahoma has grown by 1,918.

      · The state’s average ACT composite score has risen from 20.5 to 20.7, while the national average has decreased from 21.1 to 21.0.

     ·  With the exception of “other,” ALL Oklahoma student groups have increased the number of students voluntarily taking the ACT and ALL have improved their average scores.

      ·  The greatest gains were made by Oklahoma Hispanic students, whose score improved 0.4 points while the number of students tested increased nearly 30 percent.

The ACT is an assessment designed to predict success in college, and is graded on a scale score of 0 to 36. ACT projects that 73 percent of Oklahoma’s Class of 2010 took the college-entrance exam, the highest in Oklahoma’s long history as an “ACT state.”