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Minnesota ACT scores higher than the national average

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Students sitting on a row of desks.
High school students taking an exam.
Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images file

Minnesota students scored higher on average than their national peers on the ACT college entrance exam this year, and their composite score is up slightly from last year, according to a report released Wednesday.

“Of states that test 95-100 percent of their students — Minnesota is one of them — most states have score declines. One state has a score increase,” said Wayne Camara, an ACT senior researcher. “Minnesota is really unusual in that its scores have actually gone up slightly this year.”

Approximately 95 percent of Minnesota's high school graduates took the ACT test in 2019, and achieved a composite score average of 21.4. That's higher than the national average score of 20.7. It's also slightly higher than the average score of 21.3 Minnesota students got last year.

“It’s rare to increase when you’re testing all students,” Camara said.

Minnesota's ACT averages, released Wednesday, were the highest among the 17 states where at least 95 percent of high school students took the test.

Minnesota began administering the ACT test to nearly all of its high school students in 2016.

“Since 2016, scores in Minnesota have gone from 21.1 to this year 21.4,” Camara said. “That’s a slight but meaningful increase.”

Only 30 percent of Minnesota graduates met all four ACT college readiness benchmarks. That's down from 39 percent five years ago. A full 31 percent of Minnesota graduates met none of the ACT college readiness benchmarks this year. That’s down from 32 percent five years ago.

Still, Minnesota students on average outperform their peers nationally in English, reading, math and science. Sixty-one percent of Minnesota graduates met college readiness standards in English this year and 47 percent met readiness standards in math.

Nationally, fewer and fewer high school graduates are meeting ACT college readiness benchmarks. In fact, the percentage of graduates who met ACT benchmarks in math and English in 2019 is the lowest it’s been in 15 years.

“While Minnesota’s overall score is strong again, we still have work to do so that students of all backgrounds are ready for what’s next, whether that’s career or college,” said Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker.

“We can be proud but we cannot be satisfied. We will continue to learn from areas where we see promising results and expand opportunities for all students,” Ricker added.

While Minnesota’s average ACT scores remain high compared to national averages, there are still noticeable achievement gaps between white students and students of color.

Minnesota’s African-American graduates got a composite score of 16.8 this year. The composite score was 18.3 for Latino graduates and 22.7 for white graduates.

ACT CEO Marten Roorda said his company’s research points to a correlation between rigorous core classes in high school and higher scores on the ACT.

“We need to ensure that all students of all backgrounds have access to rigorous courses and that we are supporting them not only academically, but socially and emotionally as well,” Roorda said.