ACT exam scores fall as all NC students take test

ACT exam scores fall as all NC students take test

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© Associated Press © Associated Press
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Bombing the ACT exam could keep a student from getting into college. And that could be a stinging reality for some high school students in North Carolina.

The company behind the ACT college admission test said Wednesday that the average score fell on the exam taken in spring 2012, the first time North Carolina required all high school juniors to take it.

The statewide average of 18.7 points in the test of English, math, reading, and science knowledge was below the national average of 20.9. North Carolina's average composite score fell from 21.9 points last year, when just one in five North Carolina students chose to take the ACT. The ACT's highest possible total score is 36.

North Carolina is one of just nine states that tests all high school juniors. It's part of a statewide requirement measuring whether students are learning what they need for college.

Because of that, lower scores were expected, said state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. June Atkinson.

State lawmakers agreed in 2011 to eliminate four standardized end-of-course tests in North Carolina high schools to shift high school juniors to take the ACT to evaluate student performance. Students taking the ACT as juniors can use their senior year to prepare for college-level work.

The line of thinking behind 100 percent participation, Atkinson said, is that all students should graduate with options, even if college is later ruled out.

"When we began this process, we knew that our first scores would be lower, but it is important to get a true picture of where we are, in order to improve," Atkinson said. "We know we have our work cut out for us in terms of raising student expectations and preparing 100 percent of our students for community college- or university-level work."

The goal now, she said, is to get those numbers up.

"We are going to implement the Common Core standards in math and English language arts," Atkinson explained.

She continued, "We are going to continue to tell parents and students the importance of taking rigorous courses in math, language arts and science. … We are going to continue to expand with the work we have done with technology."

Atkinson said she is confident the scores this spring will increase.

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