North Carolina students’ scores on a national standardized test called the ACT are below national averages and are largely unchanged from last year.
The ACT tests English, reading, math, and science. The highest score on each section is 36.
The average state score in English was 17.6, the average in math was 19.5, the reading average was 19.2, the science average was 19, and the state composite score was 19.
The state composite score last year was 18.9.
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“It does take time to see scores on that kind of test go up,” said state Department of Public Instruction spokeswoman Vanessa Jeter.
Nationally, the English average was 20.4, the math average was 20.8, the reading average was 21.4, the science average was 20.9, with a composite score of 21.
National results have leveled off in recent years, prompting ACT officials to call for improvements in education.
“The needle is barely moving on college and career readiness, and that means far too many young people will continue to struggle after they graduate from high school,” ACT CEO Jon Whitmore said in a statement. “This should be a wake-up call for our nation.”
The state began requiring all high school juniors take the ACT in 2012, and it is one of 13 states where all graduating seniors took the test at least once in their high school careers. The state’s average scores dropped when the ACT became a requirement. In many states, only students applying to college take the exam.
After the big decline, North Carolina scores began to inch up in all subjects but math.
The state intentionally chose to have students take the test as juniors, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson. It gives schools the opportunity to address student needs for improvement before they graduate, she said.
The report is based on test results for 2015 high school graduates who took the ACT as sophomores, juniors or seniors, and includes private school students’ scores.
Among the states where all public high school graduates took the ACT, North Carolina scores are among the lowest. The composite score of 19 is tied with Mississippi, which also tests all graduates.
The ACT bills itself as a “curriculum-based achievement test” that predicts student performance in first-year college courses.
The report says that 47 percent of North Carolina test-takers had a 50 percent chance or higher of getting a B - or 75 percent chance or better of getting a C- in a first-year college English composition course.
Thirty-two percent would do as well in a first-year college algebra course, 34 percent in an introductory social science course, and 26 percent in a college biology course. Eighteen percent of state students made those “benchmark” scores in all four subjects, compared to 28 percent nationally.
The report of ACT scores is the first in a wave of standardized test results to be reported over the next week. Results of state end-of-grade and end-of-course tests will be released next week, as will results of SAT and AP (advanced placement) tests.