Kansas ACT scores above national average but change little

Kansas high school students are scoring better on average than their peers nationally on the ACT college entrance exam and a higher percentage appear ready for college courses, though figures released Wednesday show their average scores haven’t changed much in recent years.

The State Department of Education noted that ACT, based in Iowa City, said 32 percent of the state’s 2015 high school graduates taking the test met all benchmarks for college readiness – up from 28 percent for 2011 graduates and better than the national figure of 28 percent for 2015.

“We’re optimistic,” said department spokeswoman Denise Kahler. “We think there’s a lot of good growth to come.”

ACT released figures for students graduating in 2015, whether they took the test during their sophomore, junior or senior years. About 23,700 of the state’s graduates, or 74 percent, took the test, compared with the national average of 59 percent.

The average composite score this year for Kansas was 21.9 on a 36-point scale, compared with the national average of 21. It was 22 for Kansas graduates in both 2011 and 2014.

The state’s average composite score for this year was 21st in the nation, and the average scores for math, reading, English and science were either 21st or 22nd.

ACT expressed concern that students’ average scores nationally haven’t improved significantly in recent years. But Kahler noted that more students are taking the test, 1.9 million for this year’s senior class, compared with 1.6 million for 2011 graduates.

Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said the ACT test is only “one snapshot” of whether students are ready and that schools also must develop “soft skills” such as persistence and conscientiousness.