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WA class of 2007 does better than most other states on ACT


Despite all the hand wringing over student achievement, this year’s Washington high school graduates scored near the top of at least one national measure: the ACT college entrance exam.

Connecticut and Massachusetts are the only states to post higher average composite ACT scores than Washington for the class of 2007.

In general, scores are higher in states where a smaller percentage of high school graduates takes the exam. In the top-scoring three states, 15 percent to 16 percent of the class of 2007 sat for the exam as sophomores, juniors or seniors.

Colorado and Illinois are the only two states that saw all of this year’s graduating seniors take the test. More states will join them in the next few years.

The average ACT composite score on a scale of 1 to 36 was 23.1 for Washington’s class of 2007. The national average was 21.2, Massachusetts’ average was 23.5 and Connecticut’s was 23.2.

Washington students who took the ACT also were notably above the national average in the math section of the test, with an average math score of 23, compared to the national average of 21, the Connecticut average of 23.2 and the Massachusetts mark of 23.6.

This fact is not incongruous with the failure of many Washington students to meet the standard in the math section of the statewide graduation test, because many students taking the ACT test are high achievers aiming toward college who probably also passed the Washington Assessment of Student Learning.

Washington schools chief Terry Bergeson said the strong showing on the ACT shows that Washington is doing a good job of both raising test scores for the kids who need the most help and giving those at the other end of the spectrum a world class education.

“We have to grow the best and the brightest as well as help the kids who are struggling,” Bergeson said Wednesday. She noted that Washington students also score near the top on the SAT, another college entrance exam that is taken by a larger percentage of the state’s high school graduates.

In 2006, Washington public and private school students averaged a combined SAT score of 1059, an average score of 527 in reading and 532 in math. That put Washington at the top of a list of 23 states in which more than 50 percent of high school students take the SAT.

Washington’s class of 2007 posted a modest increase in ACT performance when compared to the class of 2006, from an average composite score of 22.9 to 23.1.

ACT officials say one-year trends are less meaningful than a long-term increase in composite scores. A more significant measure of improvement can be seen since 2003, said Richard Ferguson, CEO and chairman of ACT, the Iowa City, Iowa-based nonprofit that owns the exam.

Washington students increased their composite ACT scores from 22.5 to 23.1 between 2003 and 2007.

ACT, a curriculum-based test, also provides an analysis of test takers’ college readiness and Washington students also scored well above the national average in this measure.

Eighty-one percent of Washington students who took the ACT writing test met the test’s benchmark for college readiness, compared to 80 percent last year and the national average of 69 percent. In math, the figure was 60 percent, an improvement from 57 percent in 2006, and better than the national average of 43 percent.

The percentage who met the benchmark for all four subjects including reading and science was 34 percent, compared to 32 percent last year. Only 23 percent met this benchmark nationally.

“I get to look at the real life information across the state, school-by-school and kid-by-kid. We’re just much better than we used to be,” Bergeson said.

On the Web:

ACT state-by-state results:

– Associated Press

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