Oklahoma ACT Results Demonstrate Need for Increased Rigor & Renewed Focus on Science & Math


While Oklahoma continues to have a high percentage of students taking the ACT, the state's average composite score has flatlined. And State Superintendent Janet Barresi on Wednesday said she is concerned that too many students are not prepared for college, particularly in the areas of science and math.

“We must redouble our efforts to make more students capable in math and science,” said Barresi, who took office in January as the first new State Superintendent in 20 years. “And we must ensure that students take a full and rigorous course load while in high school.”

ACT’s annual Condition of College and Career Readiness report was released today, along with profile reports on each state. Overall, the ACT report showed that college and career readiness continues to increase among ACT-tested U.S. high school graduates. But the results also show a high number of students who are graduating without all of the academic skills they need to succeed after high school.

Barresi said she was pleased that Oklahoma students taking the ACT scored higher than the national average in the area of English. Of the 2011 ACT-tested Oklahoma high school graduates, 67 percent met the College Readiness Benchmark for English, compared to 66 percent nationwide.

"But when you get past that, especially in science and math scores, it is clear the job is not getting done,” said Barresi.

Oklahoma’s average composite score has remained unchanged since 2007, at 20.7. Compared to surrounding states, Oklahoma’s average composite score was in the middle of the pack.

An analysis of College Readiness Benchmark for math and science shows that ACT-tested students in Oklahoma were a full 10 percentage points below the national percent of ACT-tested high school graduates in math and five percentage points below the national percent in science.

Barresi said she is also concerned that many Oklahoma students interested in high-growth fields like education, management, marketing, health care and community services fall short of meeting ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks, particularly in the areas of math and science. ACT’s analysis showed that of 2011 ACT-tested high school graduates interested in health care, only 16 percent met the college readiness benchmark for math and only 11 percent met the benchmark for science. Of those indicating an interest in health care, only 37 percent met benchmarks for reading.

“That doesn’t bode well for the future of the state,” said Barresi. “We must focus on increasing students in the STEM pipeline. Science, technology, engineering and math are beginning to pervade almost every profession. Our students must be engaged in these subjects if they are going to succeed.”

Barresi also pointed to an ACT analysis that showed if a student takes four years of science, math, and English, they do significantly better on the ACT than if they take three years or less.

“It’s absolutely critical that in order to be prepared for the 21st century, students in Oklahoma need to take a full course load while they are in high school,” said Barresi. “We must keep pushing forward with rigorous coursework and increased standards.”

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Last updated on August 22, 2012