Montana ACT Scores Above National Average

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Montana education officials report that the state’s 2009 graduating class earned an average composite score of 22 on the ACT exam, compared to the national composite score of 21.1.

The ACT is designed to measure the academic skills considered important for success in first-year college courses. The national and state averages were the same last year.

“The current ACT scores speak well of our students’ performance, but we can’t afford to stand still,” said Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau. “Substantial room for growth exists in college readiness in math and science skills needed by our students in their first-year college courses.”

The ACT test was taken by 5,960 Montana students, or 54 percent of the state’s 2009 high school graduates. One student earned a perfect score of 36.

Montana students scored higher than the national average in all four subject areas of English, math, reading and science, but just 26 percent of Montana students who took the test met college readiness benchmarks in all four subjects. The national rate was 23 percent.

A benchmark score is the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a grade of B or higher or a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding college course.

Seventy-four percent of Montana students met benchmark scores in English, 63 percent met reading benchmarks and 48 percent met math benchmarks. One-third met the science benchmark.

“The most significant indicator of how well students do on the ACT and succeed in college is whether they have taken college preparatory classes in high school and we will continue to work closely with postsecondary education to ensure we reach our goal of preparing every student for college success,” Juneau said.

Five percent, or 313, of the Montana graduating seniors who took the test were Native American. Their composite score was 18.1, the same score as in 2007 and up from a 17.7 in 2008.

“Overall, Montana students have consistently scored higher than students on the national level; however, an achievement gap is demonstrated between American Indian and white students,” Juneau said. “We need to continue to remain vigilant in preparing all of our students to be ready for college. The data shows we still have some work to do on that front.”

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