According to data released today, approximately 100 percent of Minnesota’s high school graduating class of 2016 took the ACT college entrance exam as an 11th or 12th grader. In total, 64,145 students—an increase of 17,283 students or 37 percent over the class of 2015—took the exam, which historically is an important access point to postsecondary opportunities. Especially notable were the significant increases in the number of students from groups that are traditionally underserved.
Minnesota’s average score of 21.1 exceeds the national average of 20.8, with more Minnesota students meeting each of the four benchmarks—English, reading, math and science—than did students across the country, 29 percent compared to 26 percent nationally. While the state’s score dropped from last year, the state’s education commissioner Brenda Cassellius indicated that other states that had opened access to more students had seen similar drops.
“I will gladly celebrate greater equity and opportunity for Minnesota kids any day of the week,” said Cassellius. “We anticipated that our statewide average score might decrease as we opened up the ACT to all students, but we are opening doors and raising the bar for all kids, especially those we have left behind before.”
This year’s results place Minnesota students first among the 18 states that provided the ACT to all students. Minnesota spent 10 years atop the list of states providing the ACT to more than 50 percent of their 12th grade students. In the 2014-2015 school year, the state provided the ACT to all Minnesota juniors at no cost to families, putting the state in a different cohort of peers for comparison. In recent years, Minnesota has seen between 74-78 percent of 12th grade students taking the exam, and the students left behind were often the same students caught in the state’s persistent achievement gap.
Further analysis of the data also shows a disproportionate number of under-represented students did not take advantage of fee waivers that 12th graders can use to retake the test to improve their scores, a number Cassellius indicated she would like to see increase in future years.
“This is about equity,” said Cassellius. “It is a point of pride that our students do so well on the ACT, year after year. But when we see the number of American Indian students taking the exam more than doubling, Hispanic students increasing by two-thirds, and black students increasing by almost 40 percent, it tells me we are removing barriers and creating more opportunities. We will continue to forge ahead.”
The national and state ACT Condition of College & Career Readiness 2016 reports can be viewed and downloaded at: http://www.act.org/conditionreport2016.