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Kentucky public school ACT scores on the rise

Higher percentage of students reaching benchmark

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 26, 2015) — More Kentucky public high school graduates are meeting the state’s college-readiness benchmarks on the ACT college-entrance exam, according to data released today by the Kentucky Department of Education.

In 2015, 57.2 percent of graduates reached the benchmark of 18 in English, up from 56.4 percent in 2014 and 55 percent in 2013.

The mathematics benchmark of 19 was reached by 44.5 percent of graduates in 2015, up from 41.3 percent in 2014 and 40 percent in 2013.

The reading benchmark of 20 also saw an increase, from 46 percent in 2013 to 48 percent in 2014 to 49.5 percent in 2015.


“The numbers show that our high school graduates are better prepared for college than ever before,” Commissioner Terry Holliday said. “That’s a direct result of Senate Bill 1 and the reforms—including more rigorous standards and accountability—that we’ve implemented since 2009. Clearly, our teachers and students have risen to the challenge.”

The benchmarks represent the minimum scores that guarantee students entry into corresponding credit-bearing college courses at Kentucky colleges and universities without the need for developmental education or supplemental courses.

“It is estimated that students and parents have been able to save more than $1,000 per student by avoiding non-credit bearing remedial course tuition at the college level,” Holliday said. “On top of that, high school graduates who reach college readiness levels are more likely to return to college for a second year, take more credit-bearing courses, and have a higher GPA.”

In recent years, Kentucky graduates have realized significantly greater gains on the ACT than their counterparts nationwide. From 2011 to 2015, Kentucky public school graduates made gains in every subject and more than a three-quarter point improvement in the overall composite score—up to 20.0 on a 36-point scale. At the same time, student performance in the U.S. stagnated, with the national composite of 21.2, up only one-tenth of a point from 2011.

For the past three years, ACT has included scores for students receiving extended-time accommodations in its summary reporting. These students typically register lower test scores than students who do not receive additional time to take the test. Eight percent of Kentucky test-takers receive ACT-approved accommodations as compared with four percent of students nationally.

Composite scores for various groups of public school graduates are up from where they were several years ago, but the numbers illustrate that achievement gaps persist. Holliday said it is imperative that all students have an opportunity to graduate college/career-ready. The state is putting an emphasis on strategies to close achievement gaps and working with schools and districts to do so, he said.

There is a strong correlation between student performance on the ACT and the rigor of the courses a student takes in high school. While Kentucky’s minimum high school graduation requirements of four years of English and three years each of mathematics (including Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and geometry); science and social studies aligns with ACT’s recommended core curriculum, the rigor of the courses varies widely. Generally speaking, the more rigorous the courses the student takes, the better the student performs on the ACT.