Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Isle students above
average on ACT

Isle scores on the college-entrance
exam drop but continue to exceed
the national average

Hawaii students scored higher than their national counterparts on the college-entrance ACT test again this year, especially in math, but their scores slipped slightly over last year, according to results released today.

ACT scores

Hawaii students perform better than the national average.

English 20.8 20.4
Math 22.5 20.7
Reading 21.7 21.3
Science 21.4 20.4
Composite score 21.7 20.9
Percent of graduates tested 18 40

Source: ACT

"We congratulate Hawaii's public and private school students for beating the ACT national averages in all subject areas for four straight years," said schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto.

Eighteen percent of Hawaii's high school graduating class of 2004 took the exam, compared with 40 percent nationally. ACT does not break down the scores of public vs. private school students.

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test made up of four separate exams in English, reading, mathematics and science, whose results are also combined into a composite figure. Students applying to college may take either the ACT or the SAT, which measures just English and math abilities. The SAT tends to be more popular in coastal states, while the rest of the country favors the ACT.

Hawaii students averaged 21.7 on the ACT compared with 20.9 for the nation as a whole, out of a maximum score of 36. The national average rose by one-tenth of a point over last year, the first time in seven years that it had increased. Meanwhile, Hawaii's figure dropped by the same amount.

In Hawaii, ACT composite scores were stable at 21.6 from 1998 to 2000, before gradually rising to 22 in 2002, and then dropping to 21.8 last year. Nationally, the score stayed at 21 from 1998 to 2001 before dropping to 20.8 in 2002 and staying there last year.

Ed Colby, spokesman for Iowa City-based ACT, said the drop in Hawaii's scores over the past two years is significant, but "not necessarily representative of a trend."

"It's a bit up in the air right now, but certainly scores aren't going the way you'd like them," he said.

On the plus side, he noted that Hawaii's composite scores have regularly outpaced the national average, and are especially high in math, with a 22.5 average this year, compared with 20.7 for the nation.

One possible explanation for the recent decline in Hawaii's composite scores may be that fewer students are taking what ACT considers a core curriculum for college-bound students: four years of English and at least three years each of math (starting with algebra), science and social studies.

In Hawaii the fraction of students taking that curriculum has dropped to 63 percent this year, falling steadily from 70 percent in 2001, Colby said.

"ACT has worked very hard to present the message of how important it is for students to take challenging courses in high school if they want to go to college," he said.

Hawaii public schools require four years of English, four in social studies, and three each in math and science. The Board of Education voted to require two more yearlong courses for graduation, in career/technical education, fine arts or foreign language, for students graduating in 2010.

Composite scores ranged from 17.8 in Washington, D.C., to 22.7 in Vermont, but ACT officials advise against making state-to-state comparisons because students taking the test are self-selected and the percentage taking the test varies widely. In Hawaii, 2,266 students took the test this year.



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