Kentucky: Council on Postsecondary Education

Kentucky ACT scores move up for the third consecutive year

Release Date: August 17, 2005

Kentucky Department of Education                                    
Contact: Lisa Y. Gross
Office phone: (502) 564-3421        
Cellular phone: (502) 330-5063               

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education
Contact: Sue Patrick
Office phone: (502) 573-1555

 (FRANKFORT, Ky.) -- The composite ACT score for Kentucky's year 2005 college-bound high school seniors gained slightly over the 2004 composite score, the Kentucky Department of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education announced today.

 The 2005 composite is 20.4, compared to 2004's composite of 20.3. Nationally, the 2005 composite score was 20.9, the same as in 2004. Participation rates at the state and national levels continue to rise.

 In 1990, 24,942 Kentucky high school graduates (62 percent) took the test; in 2005, 29,943 (76 percent) did. The number of 2005 test-takers represents a one percent increase over 2004's total.

Year 1990 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
24,942 28,745 29,670 30,084 29,532 29,877 29,581 29,943
Taking Rigorous Courses

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 18,114 in 2005, compared to only 7,088 in 1990. In 2005, 60.5 percent of Kentucky high schoolers who took the ACT also took the recommended core courses. Nationwide, 56 percent of students took the recommended core.

ACT developed College Readiness Benchmarks in English, mathematics, science and reading, with research indicating the students who reach the levels have a high probability of earning a C grade or higher in certain credit-bearing first-year college courses. The benchmark scores are:

  • 18 or higher on the ACT English Test
  • 22 or higher on the ACT Math Test
  • 21 or higher on the ACT Reading Test
  • 24 or higher on the ACT Science Test

Among students in Kentucky:

  •  65 percent met or surpassed the English benchmark, compared to 68 percent nationally
  • 32 percent met or surpassed the math benchmark, compared to 41 percent nationally
  • 48 percent met or surpassed the reading benchmark, compared to 51 percent nationally
  • 22 percent met or surpassed the science benchmark, compared to 26 percent nationally

 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 (including algebra 1, algebra 2 and geometry); 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 state's average ACT score continues to move up, even though more students participate in the test every year," said Kentucky Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit. "More students are taking the core subjects, but we aren't always seeing the expected gains. We need to make sure that the course content is as rigorous as the name of the course suggests it will be. We need to make sure that Algebra II is really Algebra II in every high school."

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

"We are encouraged that more Kentucky students are taking the ACT than in previous years and are aspiring to a college education," said Tom Layzell, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education. "We must continue to work to raise Kentucky's scores to at least the national average so fewer of our high school graduates need remediation at the college level. We are pleased that Kentucky’s statewide placement policy for English and mathematics is consistent with the ACT’s college readiness benchmarks. Our public colleges and universities have set a clear, statewide standard for demonstrating college readiness and guaranteeing placement in credit-bearing coursework."

ACT scores also are 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.
 In comparing Kentucky with the nation, the widest gap in performance among students was on overall mathematics scores (1 point) and the smallest was in English (0.4 point).

 African-American students in Kentucky who took the college-bound curriculum performed similarly 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 20.5 and females a score of 20.2. On ACT, which offers only multiple-choice questions, males tend to outscore females in mathematics and science, and females tend to outscore males in English and reading.


2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
African American 16.8 16.8 16.6 16.8 16.9 16.8
American Indian 18.6 17.5 18.4 19.5 18.4 19.7
Asian 21.0 21.3 21.5 21.8 22.7 22.3
Hispanic 19.6 19.4 19.1 18.9 18.9 19.2
White 20.4 20.4 20.3 20.5 20.6 20.6
Other/No Response 20.3 20.3 20.1 20.1 20.5 20.4
Total Students 20.1 20.1 20.0 20.2 20.3 20.4

NOTE TO EDITORS AND REPORTERS: ACT does not provide district- or school-level results to the Kentucky Department of Education or Council on Postsecondary Education.


Last Updated 8/19/2005