The percentage of Oklahoma graduating high school seniors in 2016 who demonstrated college and career readiness in all four core subjects on the ACT college entrance exam decreased slightly since last year, according to ACT’s annual Condition of College and Career Readiness report, released early Wednesday.
The report is based on the results of the 2016 ACT college entrance exam, which was taken by 32,854 Oklahoma students — 82 percent of Oklahoma’s graduates.
The percentage of the state’s 2016 graduates who met all four benchmarks in English, reading, science and math dropped to 21 percent. That percentage was 22 percent in 2015 and 2014.
Nationally, 26 percent of ACT-tested 2016 graduating students met all four benchmarks, the report said. That is a drop of 2 percentage points from last year.
Not all students take the test, and according to the report, the drops in several states this year, as well as in the national percentage, can be attributed partially to more students taking it. The number of ACT-tested graduates increased by 8.6 percent nationally since last year. More than 2 million seniors across the country took the test.
“The addition of seven more states that required all students to take the ACT in the 2016 data set means students from a broader range of academic preparation were tested, including many students who may not have been preparing to attend college,” the report states.
“This decline in scores nationally does not necessarily represent an actual change in national performance of achievement, but rather reflects the changes in the makeup of the testing population.”
In Oklahoma, the number of students taking the test in 2016 increased by 6.5 percent since 2015 and by 12 percent since 2012.
In a press release, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said that when more Oklahoma students take the ACT, colleges receive more information about those students, opening the door to recruitment and scholarship opportunities.
“Clearly, more of our students are exploring the possibility of extending their education beyond high school,” Hofmeister said. “More students having access to college-entrance exams means new on-ramps to post-secondary education.
“This is an important and positive trend, since an estimated 62 percent of Oklahoma jobs will require a post-secondary education by 2020.”
ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks are considered predictors of a student’s having at least a 50 percent chance of earning a B or a 75 percent chance of earning a C in first-year college courses.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, the number of Oklahoma juniors taking the ACT in 2016 went up by at least 58 percent over 2015.
Last spring, the department offered an ACT pilot program that enabled all public high school juniors in the state to take the exam at no cost to districts or students. Nearly every eligible high school participated, with 457 of 459 schools taking advantage of the voluntary program.
In all, 35,477 juniors took the ACT, compared to 22,500 the year before.
“Higher participation gives us a better picture of how we are doing at preparing our young people for college and career,” Hofmeister said. “The ACT, like any test, is a tool to show us areas of strength and weakness. We then act on that valuable information.”
The state’s average composite score went from 20.7 to 20.4, while the national average composite score dropped from 21.0 to 20.8. Oklahoma ranks 29th overall in average composite scores nationally.