Kentucky: Council on Postsecondary Education

Kentucky ACT scores move up since last year; State's gains outpace nation's

Release Date: August 20, 2003
Contact: Bill Swinford, Council on Postsecondary Education
Phone: (502) 573-1555

Contact: Lisa Y. Gross, Kentucky Department of Education
Phone: (502) 564-3421 or (502) 330-5063

(Frankfort, Ky) The composite ACT score for Kentucky's year 2003 college-bound high school seniors gained slightly over the 2002 composite score, the Kentucky Department of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education announced today.

The 2003 composite is 20.2, compared to 2002's composite of 20.0. Nationally, the composite score made no movement, with the 2003 score at 20.8 -- the same as 2002's. In 1990, 24,942 Kentucky students (62 percent) took the test; in 2003, 29,877 (73 percent) did.

1990 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Number tested 24,942 27,447 28,210 28,745 29,670 30,084 29,532 29,877
Number Taking Rigorous Courses 7,088(28%)     10,106(37%) 12,265(43%) 12,694(44%) 13,885(47%) 14,506(48%) 17,274(58%) 17,557(59%)

ACT also asks test-takers to report the courses they took in high school. Over the past 13 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the percentage of Kentucky students reporting that they are taking ACT's recommended core courses. The number of students who report taking ACT's core curriculum has increased to 17,557 in 2003, compared to only 7,088 in 1990.

The overall ACT Assessment consists of tests in four areas: English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning. ACT recommends that college-bound students take four or more years of English; three or more years of mathematics (algebra or higher); three or more years of social studies; and three or more years of natural sciences. ACT defines specific courses in these areas. Kentucky's graduation requirements define four credits in English; three in mathematics; three in social studies; three in science; one in history and appreciation of visual and performing arts; and one-half each in health and physical education.

"The gain in composite scores and the rise in the number of students taking rigorous courses from 2002 to 2003 are encouraging," said Kentucky Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit. "My concerns -- and the resources of the Kentucky Department of Education -- are focused on the achievement gaps. Those correlate with the results of our state testing system, and that indicates that our plans to address the gaps are crucial to raising achievement levels."

"We are pleased that Kentucky's ACT composite score has improved and that more Kentucky students are taking core courses," said Dr. Thomas Layzell, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education. "This is evidence that reform is working."

Many Kentucky colleges and universities use ACT scores to inform admissions decisions and to place students in appropriate college courses.

ACT scores are also used, along with high school grade point averages, to determine the amount of money high school graduates are eligible to receive through the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship program. Because of these requirements, a higher percentage of Kentucky seniors take the ACT than do seniors in many other states, where universities do not require the ACT.

In the percentage of students taking the ACT, Kentucky is tied for 8th place with three other states (Alabama, Arkansas and Nebraska). Two states -- Colorado and Illinois -- require 100 percent participation in ACT. Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 25 have participation rates of 50 percent or more.

In comparing Kentucky with the nation, the widest gap in performance among students who had completed the core curriculum was on mathematics scores (1.4 points) and the smallest was in reading (0.6 points).

African-American students in Kentucky who took the college-bound curriculum were similar in performance to African-American students at the national level. At both the national and state levels, the gap between the performance of African-American and white students persisted.

The score gaps between males and females of all ethnic groups were minimal in most subjects, with males posting a composite score of 20.3 and females a score of 20.1.

            Core or more               Less than Core

Number Tested Composite Number Tested Composite
White 15,377
African American 977 17.5 982 16.1
Asian 223 22.3 102 20.7
Mexican American 106 19.5 70 17.9
Other Hispanic 66 20.4 60 17.3
American Indian 59 20.0 39 19.0
TOTAL 17,557 21.0 10,691 19.0



Last Updated 8/3/2005