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Crystal Greene, 503-947-5650

August 21, 2013

ACT Exam Highlights Achievement Gaps

More Oregon students meet college readiness benchmark in all four areas

(Salem, Ore.) – A report out today provides information on how Oregon students performed on the ACT College Entrance Exam and how that performance correlates to college preparedness. Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton announced that performance on the exam held steady while participation continued to increase. 12,857 of our 2013 graduates took the ACT, a 3% increase from last year. This represents 34% of our graduating class. Oregon’s average composite score was 21.5, compared to 21.4 in 2012. The national average composite score is 20.9. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score. Fifteen Oregon students received a perfect score of 36.

“As we work to prepare our young people for higher education and the work place, reports like the one put out by ACT can help us gauge progress and identify areas needing additional focus,” said Deputy Superintendent Saxton. “While our state continues to hold steady, and remains above the national average, we are not yet seeing the types of gains in performance that we need to ensure all of our students are ready for college and career.”

The ACT tracks the percent of students who meet set College and Career Readiness Benchmarks, which are defined as having a 50% chance of receiving a B or higher or a 75% chance of receiving a C or higher in a credit-bearing college course. These College and Career Readiness Benchmarks are reviewed every few years to ensure they are still set at the appropriate level. Based on the most recent review, ACT has adjusted their benchmarks for reading and science. The reading benchmark went up one point and the Science benchmark went down one point. This change in benchmarks means that this year’s College and Career Readiness results for reading and science are not comparable to previous year’s results and represent a new baseline. As anticipated, the percent of Oregon students who met the College and Career readiness Benchmark for reading decreased as a result of the increased benchmark, while the percent of students meeting in science increased as a result of the lower benchmark. Oregon students showed little change in the two areas not impacted by the benchmark adjustments – English and math.

In Oregon, 66% of 2013 graduates who took the ACT met the benchmark in English, 50% in reading, 50% in math, and 42% in science. Thirty-one percent of Oregon graduates met the College and Career Readiness Benchmarks in all four areas, up from 29% in 2012. However, for Oregon’s Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and Native American students, both their composite scores and the percent reaching the College and Career Readiness Benchmark continues to lag behind their peers. Of the 2013 graduates taking the ACT, only 5% of Black students, 11% of Hispanic students, 9% of Pacific Islander, and 8% of Native American students met the benchmarks in all four areas. This compares to 36% for White students and 40% for Asian students.

“This year’s data illustrates a worrisome trend,” said Deputy Superintendent Saxton. “Not only do large achievement gaps in college preparedness exist, but these gaps are widening. In the past five years we have seen steady growth in the percent of our White and Asian students who are meeting three or more of ACT’s college readiness benchmarks. But over that same time period, the percent of our Native American, Pacific Islander, and Black students meeting three or more benchmarks has actually decreased. And the increases for our Hispanic students haven’t been fast enough to prevent the widening of the gap. This should be a wakeup call to our state that we are failing these kids. We need all of our students – regardless of race – to graduate ready for college and career and that starts by ensuring all students have access to a rigorous, engaging curriculum that prepares them for future success.”

ACT has long linked higher levels of college and career preparedness with taking what they refer to as a “core curriculum” – four or more years of high school English and three or more years each of high school math, social studies, and science. Starting this coming school year, students in Oregon will receive instruction aligned to the new, more rigorous, Common Core State Standards in English and math. One of the primary goals of these new standards is to better prepare students in Oregon, and around the country, to be college and career ready by the time they graduate high school.

To view the national and Oregon reports, visit: http://www.act.org/newsroom/data/2013/index.html.

Rob Saxton, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction
Crystal Greene, Communications Director, Telephone (503) 947-5650

Oregon Department of Education News Releases contain information that was originally released to the press as an official release.  Refer to each News Release for the details.

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