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State Students Continue to Score Well on ACT

OLYMPIA – August 18, 2010 – For the seventh straight year, Washington students scored far above the national average on the ACT exam, according to results released today.

Washington students in the Class of 2010 tied for eighth with Delaware, finishing behind students in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont on the ACT, which measures college readiness. ACT does not release school district or school results.

“We know that if our students stay with us through 12th grade, they are prepared for that next step in life, whether it be college or career,” State Superintendent Randy Dorn said. “This continues to be the trend on national assessments and it’s encouraging to see.”

One out of every six Washington 12th graders (12,897) took the ACT in the 2009-10 school year, a record for ACT participation in this state. Those students averaged a composite score of 23.0, compared to the national average of 21.0. A composite score consists of four content areas: English, reading, math and science. Scores are scaled from one (lowest) to 36 (highest).

The percentage of Washington students scoring at or above "benchmark" was significantly higher than the rest of the nation. As defined by ACT, students meeting benchmark are predicted to have a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher in a corresponding college course.

For students taking four years of English, 79 percent of Washington students, compared to 66 percent nationally, met benchmark. That trend continued for students taking four years of math (61 to 43 percent), four years of social science (67 to 52 percent) and four years of natural science (41 to 29 percent). The state’s composite benchmark score of 36 was far above the national average of 24.

The ACT, a curriculum-based exam, is primarily used for admission into colleges and universities. Washington students have proven to be among the nation’s best in college readiness tests during much of the past decade. Last year, Washington students on the SAT finished first in the nation for the sixth straight year among states in which more than half of the eligible students took the exams. Results for this year’s SAT, the nation’s other test used for college admissions, will likely be released in mid September.

The ACT is a legislatively approved alternative to Washington’s high schools state exams in reading, math and writing. After students take our state high school exam once, they can use qualifying scores from the ACT or SAT to meet the graduation requirements. Students who transfer into Washington public schools in the 11th or 12th grade, can use one of the alternatives without taking a state exam.

Nearly 10,000 Washington students took the optional ACT writing test, averaging a composite score of 23.1 compared to the national average of 21.4

Participation of racial/ethnic groups continued to increase on the ACT. In addition, the achievement levels for all subgroups increased slightly: African Americans (+0.6), American Indians/Alaska Natives (+0.9), Hispanics (+0.3) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (+0.1). The increases bucked a two-year downward trend.


About OSPI

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine Educational Service Districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

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The OSPI Communications Office serves as the central point of contact for local, regional and national media covering K-12 education issues.

Communications Manager
Nathan Olson
(360) 725-6015

Average ACT Scores by Subject



















ACT National Results
For state-by-state comparisons, composite scores and historical data, see ACT’s 2010 report.


   Updated 8/18/2010

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