Few changes seen in Iowa ACT scores

(Radio Iowa) – The results from Iowa students who took the ACT college entrance test this year showed little change from the year before in the four subject areas of English, reading, math and science. ACT Assistant Vice President, Steve Kappler, says the Iowa City-based organization made few changes this year in the benchmarks used to measure students.

“The benchmark is essentially the score that a student would need in a specific subject level to have a 75-percent chance or better to get a C, or a 50-percent chance or better of getting a B in that first-year freshman college course,” Kappler says. He says the change in benchmarks is behind the drop in the number of Iowa students who met the reading benchmark from 62 last year to 54 this year.

Iowa’s Education Department has put emphasis on increasing interest in the “STEM” courses, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Kappler says that emphasis isn’t immediately evident in the scores this year in math and science.

“The math benchmark was relatively flat and has been. The science benchmark increased because of the change that was made to lower the benchmark score,” Kappler says. “I think the more encouraging number form the STEM perspective actually takes place as you look in the ‘planned education majors for students. The number two major in terms of them planning to go onto school is Health Sciences and Technology, with 18-percent.”

Kappler says that shows more students are looking at a career in STEM areas. Minority students have lagged behind in their scores, and Kappler says that didn’t change much this year.

“That minority aspect and different ethnicities has really remained remarkably flat across our state, so there hasn’t been a lot of movement one way or the other. In and of itself, that is troubling, we’d like to see more of that achievement gap being closed,” Kappler says.

But, he says it’s encouraging that the number of minority students who took the test increased and the results held steady. Kappler says when you look at everything, Iowa students are hanging with the students in neighboring states.

“As a whole, Iowa does extremely well. They test about 66-percent of the graduating class, about two-thirds take the ACT,” Kappler says. He says Iowa students score similar numbers are seen with Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri, and the state stacks up “extremely well” against other Midwestern states. The average composite score for Iowa students was 22.1, the same as last year.

Here is more information on the ACT results: Iowa ACT PDF