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For Immediate Release: Aug. 16, 2006
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

South Dakota sees gains on ACT scores

South Dakota’s average ACT composite score was 21.8 in 2006, an increase of 0.3 of a point from 2005 and 0.7 of a point above the national average. Students who reported taking core content courses scored even higher, with a 22.8 average composite score.

“The ACT is one of three major assessments that we look at each year to determine the progress South Dakota is making as a state, and we are very pleased with these results,” said Rick Melmer, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Education.

The ACT measures academic achievement in English, math, reading and science, with an optional writing test. South Dakota’s average score in English was 21.0, compared to 20.6 nationally. In math, it was 21.6, compared to 20.8 nationally. In reading, the state’s average score was 22, compared to 21.4 nationally. In science, it was 21.8, compared to 20.9 nationally.

In each of these areas, students who reported taking core courses scored better than the South Dakota average. In math, for example, students who reported taking core courses scored an average of 22.7, compared to the South Dakota average of 21.6. Those who reported taking non-core courses scored an average of 19.9 in math.

“These results underscore how important it is for our students to take rigorous courses in high school, and plenty of them, to ensure that they are properly prepared for higher education” Melmer said.

To that end, South Dakota has implemented new graduation requirements, which take effect with students who are freshmen this fall. The new requirements, which are part of the 2010 Education Initiative, include three pathways: Distinguished, Advanced and Standard. The Distinguished pathway matches up with the requirements for the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship and is the most rigorous option of the three.

Currently, about 36 percent of students taking the ACT meet the requirement for the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship, which is a score of 24. “As the new graduation requirements take hold, we could like to see more and more students enrolled in the Distinguished pathway and meeting that ACT score of 24,” Melmer said. “When they do, the Opportunity Scholarship kicks in and can be a powerful incentive to keeping those young people in the state.”

Another scholarship program, the Dakota Corps, also encourages young people to stay in the state by providing tuition to students who agree to work in a critical need occupation in South Dakota following their graduation from an in-state college or technical school. The Dakota Corps Scholarship program is part of the 2010 Initiative.

In other good news, the average composite score of South Dakota’s Native American students increased from 16.9 last year to 17.5 in 2006.

Nearly 75 percent of South Dakota graduating seniors took the ACT at some point in their high school careers. Nationally, 40 percent of graduating seniors took the assessment, which is one of two widely accepted college admission exams.