(Frankfort, KY) – The percentage of Kentucky public high school graduates meeting the state’s college readiness benchmarks on the ACT college-entrance exam in English, mathematics and reading saw an incremental increase, according to data released Oct. 17 by ACT.

“We are pleased with the increases in ACT scores for the Kentucky class of 2018. Even these modest increases are undoubtedly the result of lots of hard work on the part of students, educators, and parents,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis. “The results also show, however, continued significant disparities between the performance of student groups by race/ethnicity. Eliminating such incredible disparities must become a top education priority for our state.”

The state benchmarks represent the minimum scores that guarantee students entry into corresponding credit-bearing courses at Kentucky colleges and universities without the need for developmental education or supplemental courses. (ACT also has its own College Readiness Benchmarks, which are slightly higher than Kentucky’s benchmarks, and represent the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in credit-bearing college courses.)

Nationally, overall achievement – both the average ACT Composite Score and the percentage of students meeting ACT College Readiness Benchmarks – took a minor dip after a rise in 2017 and 2016.

Percentage of Kentucky Public School Graduates Meeting CPE Standards for College Readiness

Standard and Extended-Time Students Combined
College-Level CourseBenchmark2016 Graduates Meeting Benchmark2017 Graduates Meeting Benchmark2018 Graduates Meeting Benchmark

Since Kentucky began administering the ACT, Kentucky public school graduates have registered slight ups and downs in scores from year to year with nearly every subject up overall since 2014.

Kentucky Public High School Graduates' Average ACT Scores

Standard and Extended-Time Students Combined
Number taking test45,16246,28546,84046,988

Of particular importance is the comparison between the junior and senior class scores of the same school year. Since 2008, all of Kentucky’s public school juniors have participated in the ACT and the cost of the exam is paid for by state funds. Students who take the test again during their senior year do so voluntarily and at their own expense. According to ACT, students who take the exam multiple times are more likely to improve their test score over time. Additionally, when reporting group or state averages, ACT utilizes the individual’s highest score achieved if they have taken the test multiple times.

Lewis said because some students choose to take the test again in their senior year, it is important to examine Kentucky’s junior scores and the scores for the graduating class.

“Both sets of scores are important, but there is an important difference” Lewis said. “The scores for juniors give us a sense of students’ academic readiness for college at the 11th grade benchmark, while the class of 2018 scores are an indicator of the academic readiness of 2018 graduates, which includes both scores earned on their 11th grade administration of the test as well as higher scores earned by those students who retook the exam an additional time or two during their senior year.”

Percentage of Kentucky Public School Graduates and Seniors Meeting CPE Standards for College Readiness

Standard and Extended-Time Students Combined
College-Level CourseBenchmark2018 Juniors Meeting the Benchmark2018 Graduates Meeting the Benchmark

Also of note, while composite scores for various groups of public school graduates are up from where they were in years past, the numbers illustrate that achievement gaps persist.

Kentucky Public School Composite ACT Scores By Ethnic Group and Gender

Standard and Extended-Time Students Combined
Group2015 Composite2016 Composite2017 Composite2018 Composite
All Students19.719.719.719.9
African American16.716.816.916.9
American Indian17.017.316.816.7
Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander18.816.618.617.5
Two or More Races19.819.819.819.9
Prefer Not to Respond/No Response18.017.818.018.5
No Gender Response16.517.417.816.2