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Sunday, May 26, 2019

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ACT scores show Louisiana students still struggling to match peers nationwide

ACT scores show Louisiana students still struggling to match peers nationwide

Each year, tens of thousands of Louisiana high school students take the ACT exam, one of the major college preparedness tests that plays a major role in determining the caliber of college or university that students may go on to attend.

Louisiana is one of about 20 states where all or nearly all students will take the ACT exam before graduation, and the results are helpful to paint a picture of where the state stands compared to the other 19. Based on a report released Wednesday detailing results of the 2018 ACT-tested graduating class, Louisiana doesn’t fare too well, compiling an average composite score 19.2, which is 14th out of that group of 20 states. Nationally, the average composite score was 20.8.

The ACT has four main testing sections – English, reading, math and science. In none of these did Louisiana rank in the top half of the 20 states when it came to meeting benchmarks. Louisiana students were 11th in English, 14th in reading, 15th in science and 16th in math.

“ACT research shows that students who meet the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks are more likely to persist in college and earn a degree than those who don’t,” ACT said in a news release announcing their report on scores. “The benchmarks specify the minimum score students must earn on each of the four ACT subject tests to have about a 75 percent chance of earning a grade of C or higher and a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher in a typical credit-bearing first-year college course in that subject area.”

Neighboring Mississippi and Arkansas are also states with high percentages of ACT testing, and their students fared worse than Louisiana, with Alabama tied for 15th with an average 19.1 composite score and Mississippi 18th with an average 18.6 composite score.

Minnesota led the group of 20 states with an average composite score of 21.3, while Nevada was last at 17.7.

For the nation as a whole, ACT sounded the alarm as it found that math readiness was at a 14-year low. Across the U.S., 40 percent of students met the math benchmark, while that number was 46 percent in 2012.

“The negative trend in math readiness is a red flag for our country, given the growing importance of math and science skills in the increasingly tech-driven U.S. and global job market,” ACT CEO Marten Roorda said. “It is vital that we turn this trend around for the next generation and make sure students are learning the math skills they need for success in college and career.”

ACT reported that 1.9 million students graduating in 2018 took their exam, making up 55 percent of all graduates across the country. They also saw worrying declines in reading, English and science readiness.

“Science remains the subject area in which students are least likely to be prepared for college coursework,” ACT said.

ACT drilled down into a number of ways of interpreting the data on a state-by-state basis, an there wasn’t really an analysis that looked good for Louisiana.

“In 2018, 14,233 (26 percent) of Louisiana graduates met three or four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks,” ACT reported. “This compares to 13,833 and 12,442 (27 and 25 percent) out of 2017 and 2014 graduates, respectively. For reference, the national percentage of 2018 graduates meeting three or four benchmarks was 38 [percent].”

Louisiana graduates were more interested in STEM careers than the nation as a whole, 48 percent vs. 45 percent. And ACT found that 30 percent of Louisiana high-schoolers who had taken three or more years of math were meeting their math college readiness benchmark, compared to just two percent of those with three years of math.

“There is good news in that 77 [percent] of Louisiana’s 2018 ACT-tested graduates aspired to postsecondary education,” the report states. “Interestingly enough, 82 [percent] of Louisiana’s 2017 ACT-tested graduating class aspired to enroll in postsecondary education, compared to 56 [percent] who actually did enroll. If we fully closed the aspirational gap, an additional 13,609 of the 2017 ACT-tested graduates from Louisiana would have enrolled in postsecondary education.”

Dave Lemery is a regional news editor at He welcomes your comments. Contact Dave at