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ACT Performance Remains Flat for Fifth Year

The annual results on the ACT college-entrance exams are out today and, once again, 21 is the magic number.

The average composite score for students in the 2012 graduating class was 21.1 — the same it's been for five years. A perfect score is 36.

The flat numbers, along with just 25 percent of test takers reaching the minimum benchmarks in each of the ACT's four subjects, are not the encouraging results that many hoped for given the increasing focus on college- and career-readiness in the nation's high schools.

(For a complete story, click here.)

While overall student performance on the ACT held steady, there was a slight improvement in meeting the benchmarks on the math and science portions on the college-entrance exam. ACT Education President Jon Erickson pointed out that these increases, along with new standards and more teacher professional development, as hopeful signs for the future.

The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2012
, released by the Act. Inc, the Iowa City, Iowa-based non-profit testing organization today, includes state-level data, a breakdown in scores by racial and ethnic groups, and other career-related information.

The ongoing achievement gap by underrepresented minorities drew concern from advocacy groups. Just 13 percent of Latino students and 5 percent of African Americans met all four of the ACT subject benchmarks compared to 32 percent of white students and 42 percent of Asian Americans.

This year's ACT report included information on career interests compared to job opportunities. It revealed that the percentage of ACT test takers interested in careers in the five fastest growing fields identified by the U.S. Department of Labor (education, computer/information specialties, community services, management and marketing/sales) was less than the projected demand for workers in each case.

According to this year's report, 1.67 million seniors or 52 percent of the U.S. graduating class took the ACT, up from 1.62 million last year.

"One would expect that as the ACT grows as a mandatory test in many states and as the population of test takers grows accordingly that scores are naturally going to flatten out or decline a little bit," said David Hawkins, director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling in Arlington, Va. "In that context, it's not surprising that the ACT would find, in its own pool of test takers, figures that would suggest a large number of students not meeting college-readiness benchmarks."

The College Board's annual report on SAT scores has yet to be released.

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