Kentucky public high school graduates turned in another strong performance on the ACT college-entrance exam, making significant gains over the past five years. While Kentucky public school graduates still trail those nationwide, the performance gap is narrowing.

From 2010 to 2014, Kentucky public school students registered from a half-point to more than a full-point gain in every subject and nearly a one-point improvement in the overall composite score – up to 19.9 on a 36-point scale.  At the same time, student performance nationally stayed nearly unchanged. The national composite is 21.1, up only one-tenth of a point from 2010.

“This is validation that we are on the right track and that Senate Bill 1 is accomplishing what was intended,” said Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “Our teachers have embraced more rigorous standards and our students are rising to the challenge. Both should be proud of what they have accomplished.”

For the past two years, ACT has included scores for students receiving time-extended accommodations in its summary reporting, which resulted in slightly lower overall scores.

“In just one year we have eliminated the losses seen with a change of test-taker population in reporting,” Holliday said. “Even taking into account the addition of students with ACT-approved accommodations, which is about seven percent of our students, Kentucky students have shown notable gains.”

Composite scores for almost all ethnic groups of public school graduates showed improvement.

KY Average ACT scores2

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African American and Hispanic students recorded slightly greater gains than did white students, but achievement gaps still persist. Holliday said it is imperative that all students have an opportunity to graduate college/career-ready and that the state will continue its work with schools and districts on strategies to close achievement gaps.

The percentage of public high school graduates meeting or exceeding the state’s college readiness benchmarks also is up in recent years. The Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) benchmarks are the minimum scores that guarantee entry into corresponding credit-bearing college courses at Kentucky colleges and universities without the need for developmental education or supplemental courses. ACT scores also are used, along with high school grade point averages, to determine the amount of money high school graduates are eligible to receive through the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship program.

“Our data show that students who enter college prepared to take credit-bearing courses graduate at twice the rate of students who enter underprepared,” said Council on Postsecondary Education President Robert King. “The steady improvement in ACT scores is most welcome news. It will help those students and Kentucky’s economic future.”

Statewide data for the junior class who took the ACT in March 2014 will be released in the School Report Card later this fall.