More students take the ACT

More of Oklahoma’s graduating seniors took the ACT college entrance exam than in the previous five years, according to information released today by ACT.

According to ACT, 2,010 more Oklahoma graduating seniors took the test, a 6.5-percent increase over the prior year’s cohort. State participation has been climbing, with 12 percent more students taking the exam since 2012.

Nationally, 64 percent of graduating seniors take the ACT, compared to 82 percent in Oklahoma.

State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said when more Oklahoma students are taking the ACT, colleges are receiving more information about those students, opening the door to recruitment and scholarship opportunities for Oklahomans.

“Clearly, more of our students are exploring the possibility of extending their education beyond high school,” Hofmeister said. ”More students having access to college-entrance exams means new on-ramps to post-secondary education. This is an important and positive trend, since an estimated 62 percent of Oklahoma jobs will require a post-secondary education by 2020.”

Meanwhile, the number of Oklahoma juniors taking the ACT in 2016 skyrocketed by at least 58 percent over 2015. Last spring, the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) offered an ACT pilot program that enabled all public high school juniors in the state to take the exam at no cost to districts or students. Nearly every eligible high school participated, with 457 of 459 taking advantage of the voluntary program. In all, 35,477 juniors took the ACT as part of the initiative, compared to 22,500 the year before. The performance of Oklahoma’s juniors will be reflected in next year’s ACT score report of graduating seniors.

The state’s average composite score went from 20.7 to 20.4, while the national average composite score dropped from 21.0 to 20.8. Data shows that state composite scores are in line with changes in scores across the nation, dropping 0.3 points and 0.2 points, respectively. Oklahoma ranks 29th overall in average composite scores nationally.

Oklahoma’s performance in reading matches that of the nation, both with an average score of 21.3. Meanwhile, the state still lags in math with a score of 19.5 versus a national score of 20.6.

Levi Patrick, OSDE director of secondary mathematics, said the recent instability of academic standards is one reason Oklahoma’s math scores are below average.

“With the flurry of academic standards within the past five years, our seniors have experienced a constant fluctuation in what they’ve been expected to learn. Mix in a culture of over-testing, and it has been hard to maintain a focus on content,” Patrick said. “We feel good about the future because with our new Oklahoma Academic Standards, we have identified and corrected weaknesses from previous standards. In addition to being more rigorous, the new standards have closed instructional gaps and incorporated meaningful progression across grades. We will begin to see a real difference in deep and conceptual understanding over the next few years as the transition between middle school and high school mathematics becomes much more seamless.”