Minnesota students rank highest among ACT takers

Math test
The ACT is a standardized U.S. test that measures proficiency in English, math, reading and science reasoning. Minnesota students scored well enough to rank the state first in the nation.
MPR photo/Tom Weber

Minnesota students who took the ACT this year once again scored well enough to rank the state first in the nation.

Minnesota students scored an average of 22.7 out of a possibly score of 36 on the test. That's more than 1.5 points higher than the national average. But it's also an improvement from how Minnesota students did last year.

That number one ranking needs an explanation because there were nine states who scored higher than Minnesota on the ACTs.

But among those nine, only between 9 percent and 25 percent of high school graduates took the test.

The theory there is that low participation numbers may be skewed because they only reflect students who want to take the test and get into a good college and who study up for the test.

So, the American College Testing Program - when it ranks states - only looks at those where more than half the grads took the test. That's where Minnesota gets its number one status. Of Minnesota grads, 68 percent took the test.

Virtually all students take the ACT in Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Wyoming. But in every other state, including Minnesota, you're not looking at all students. That's why Ed Colby with the Iowa-based ACT, said you have to be careful when comparing states.

Midwest ACT score comparisons
This graphic shows how Minnesota compared to other states in the region on ACT scores. Minnesota was ranked highest in the nation among tested grads.
MPR Graphic/Steve Mullis

"A lot of people want to look at these results as reflective of learning in the state overall," Colby said. "And it probably is not a good instrument to do that because you're not looking at 100 percent of the students. You're looking at self-selected students who took the test because they have college aspirations."

Even if the numbers don't compare between states, Education Commissioner Alice Seagren said the numbers are still good news for Minnesota, if you only look at Minnesota numbers over the past five years.

Minnesota students have improved over the past five years on the overall test score -- along with each of the four tests that make up the ACT -- English, math, reading and science.

Still, all this good news comes just days after the state announced a 1,000 schools were not meeting adequate yearly progress.

Seagren said that's not a mixed message because scores from both the ACT and MCA tests are showing improvement, even if the improvement on the MCA isn't enough to make that yearly progress.

"I feel really good about this; I don't think they contradict one another, but I think they show we're building a really strong pipeline," Seagren said.

The release of ACT data also means there will soon be stories about those few who got the rare, perfect score of 36. There were 25 perfect scores in Minnesota. The ACT doesn't release names, so we don't know who those 25 were, but those students and their schools are likely to start getting the word out in coming weeks.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.