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For Immediate Release: Aug. 13, 2008
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

South Dakota's ACT score continues its upward climb

South Dakota’s average composite ACT score reached 22.0 in 2008, up for the third consecutive year. Only 15 states had composite scores higher than 22. South Dakota’s scores in math, science and reading were up, while English was down slightly.

“We’re very pleased with these results,” said Secretary of Education Rick Melmer. “Not only did we see an increase in our composite score for 2008, but we also saw a significant increase in the number of students taking core courses that help students with college readiness.”

Of the 6,959 students in the graduating class of 2008 who took the ACT, 68 percent indicated that they took ACT’s recommended core curriculum. That’s up from 58 percent in 2007. ACT’s core curriculum mirrors South Dakota’s requirements for high school graduation and the Opportunity Scholarship.

“The new graduation requirements appear to be doing their job,” Melmer said. “We’re driving more students into rigorous, challenging core courses, which means they’ll be better prepared for postsecondary work and success in the 21st century world.”

Students who reported taking core coursework achieved an average composite score of 22.8, compared to 19.8 for those who took less than the recommended core. Those who took core also consistently outperformed their non-core counterparts in each of the four ACT subject areas.

South Dakota students scored above the national average in each of the ACT subject areas. In addition, scores were up slightly from the previous year in math, science and reading. English, however, was down. “Our English scores had been growing steadily, so we’re not too concerned at this point,” Melmer said. “However, we will continue to monitor them closely.”

Another area state officials watch closely is the achievement of Native American students. Native American students make up 11 percent of the student population in the state’s public schools. In 2004, the average composite score for Native American students was 17.1. In 2008, it was 17.5, which is a slight decrease (-0.1) from 2007.

“We’ve seen some good progress over the last five years, but we need to continue to focus on strategies that will help our Native American students reach their highest potential,” Melmer said. He offers South Dakota’s GEAR UP program as one strategy that appears to be having success. The program emphasizes rigorous academics, along with social support, to encourage students to complete high school and pursue postsecondary education.

Average Composite ACT Scores – South Dakota vs. National


SD 21.5

Nat'l 20.9


SD 21.5

Nat'l 20.9


SD 21.8

Nat'l 21.1


SD 21.9

Nat'l 21.2


SD 22.0

Nat'l 21.1