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For Immediate Release: Aug. 22, 2012
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

State’s ACT scores steady, Still above national average

South Dakota’s average composite ACT score remains unchanged from last year at 21.8, where it has been for the past three years. The national average was also unchanged from a year ago, sitting at 21.1 as it has for four of the past five years.

While South Dakota’s scores are consistently higher than the national average by several tenths of a point, South Dakota Secretary of Education Dr. Melody Schopp says there is always room for improvement.

She said efforts, such as implementation of the Common Core State Standards, should help boost student learning overall. With the Common Core, students will be challenged to engage higher-level thinking skills in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of the concepts they are learning.

“The Common Core standards were designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary as they move into postsecondary education and careers,” Schopp said.

The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 as the highest possible score. Students are tested in the areas of English, mathematics, reading and science, although the science portion is science reasoning, not science-content knowledge. The ACT test is commonly used as a benchmark for college entrance and readiness.

In South Dakota, 81 percent of graduating seniors took the ACT, which is high for states that don’t require ACT testing for graduation.

The state Department of Education offers South Dakota students several resources to prepare for the test, such as access to free test preparation materials available through, an online academic and career planning resource hosted by the department.

In addition, the department collaborates with the Board of Regents to identify and assist high school students whose ACT scores indicate they will require remediation at the college and university level.

“We have tools in place that can help assist these students in shoring up their knowledge and skills,” Schopp said. “If students can get some of this remedial work done before their postsecondary education, it will save them both time and money once they make the transition.”