ACT Scores Fall as State Requires That All Be Tested but Officials Stress Law Is a Long-Term Investment to Help Poor and Minority Students

By Mask, Teresa | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 21, 2002 | Go to article overview

ACT Scores Fall as State Requires That All Be Tested but Officials Stress Law Is a Long-Term Investment to Help Poor and Minority Students


Mask, Teresa, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Teresa Mask Daily Herald Staff Writer

Illinois is blazing a trail toward pushing more high-schoolers to consider college and now is seeing average scores on a college entrance exam dropping as a result.

But state school leaders and some experts say the decrease in the average ACT score, to 20.1 from 21.6 a year before, is simply the price of requiring thousands more students to take the test - many of whom haven't taken the core courses that help students get better scores on the exam.

Yet, they say, it's a long-term investment that should lead to more poor and minority students taking college preparation courses and getting higher scores on the ACT.

Last year, Illinois and Colorado became the only states in the country to make the ACT mandatory for all juniors, whereas in the past only students who planned to go to college would take the test. Colorado also saw its scores dip this year, from 21.5 to 20.1.

Average composite ACT scores released Tuesday show Illinois' Class of 2002 also achieving a 20.1 on a 36-point scale and falling a bit behind the national average of 20.8.

The state score also fell below last year's state average of 21.6 when the test was voluntary. These figures include scores for private and public schools taken last year when the students were juniors.

ACT officials attribute the Illinois decline to an increase of more than 40,000 test takers. Nearly 129,000 students took the test.

Yet some educators wonder if the test might be too rigorous for some students.

"I have mixed feelings about the rule change (to a mandatory test)," said Robert T. Malito, superintendent of Palatine- Schaumburg High School District 211. "It is beneficial for some students who would not otherwise take the exam to get an early prediction as to their potential for college success, and in some cases it has even helped students apply for admission to a small or community college.

"On the other hand, the ACT is perhaps the most rigorous test that many students take in high school, and for those with limited English skills or special needs, the exam is extremely difficult," Malito said.

Some educators believe it is a good idea for all students to take the ACT because it closely mirrors the standards all students in Illinois are expected to master. …

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