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For Immediate Release: Aug. 17, 2005
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

South Dakota's average ACT score holds steady

South Dakota’s average ACT composite score held steady at 21.5 in 2005. That compares to a national average of 20.9.

Of the 7,170 South Dakota students tested, 58 percent reported that they completed, or plan to complete, the recommended core college-preparatory courses. These students had an average composite score of 22.5, compared to 19.9 for those not taking core college-preparatory courses.

“South Dakota students continue to outperform their peers across the nation, and we are pleased to be holding our own,” said Dr. Rick Melmer, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Education. “However, we have plenty of room to grow in terms of properly preparing our students for college and technical school.”

The ACT measures academic achievement in English, math, reading and science, with an optional writing test. South Dakota’s average score in English was 20.8, compared to 20.4 nationally. In math, it was 21.3, compared to 20.7 nationally. In reading, the state’s average score was 21.7, compared to 21.3 nationally. In science, it was 21.6, compared to 20.9 nationally.

In order to determine college readiness, ACT has developed benchmark scores in each of the test’s subject areas. A benchmark score is the minimum score needed on an ACT subject area test to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher in a corresponding college course.

When applying these benchmarks to South Dakota’s test results, 72 percent of students are considered “likely to be ready for college-level work” in English Composition and 55 percent in Social Sciences, as measured by the English and reading benchmarks. When it comes to math and science, only 46 percent of South Dakota students are considered “likely to be ready for college-level work” in Algebra and 31 percent in Biology.

“While our students consistently score above the national average, we would like to see improvement in our college readiness,” Melmer said. “That can be accomplished by making sure that more of our students take courses that will prepare them for postsecondary school, and that these courses are challenging. We’re addressing both of these issues through our new graduation requirements.”

Seventy-six percent of South Dakota’s graduating seniors took the ACT at some point in their high school careers. Nationally, only 40 percent of graduating seniors took the assessment, which is one of two widely accepted college admission exams.