Iowa students of the 2011 class had the second highest ACT scores in the nation among states that tested more than half of their students. The top five in order were Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Montana, and Nebraska. Minnesota’s score was 22.9, and Iowa’s was 22.3.

The percentage of Iowa students who were college-ready in all four key subjects (English, Reading, Math and Science) increased from 30% to 31% and competency scores in those subject areas separately also increased. The highest for Iowans was English with 77% competency and the lowest being Science with 40% competency. Iowa scored well above the nation in all key subjects.

African-American Achievement Gap Widens

Although Native American, Asian and Hispanic minorities all improved in their percentage in the number of students meeting competency in at least three subjects, the same could not be said for African-Americans. Their benchmark percentage dropped from 13% in 2010 to 11% in 2011. Just two years ago African-Americans were at 18%.

Director Glass Encourages Requirement that All Students in Iowa Take ACT

Department of Education Director Jason Glass took the opportunity to push for the requirement that all Iowa high school students take the ACT. The 22,968 Iowa students that took the ACT comprised 62% of last spring’s graduating seniors, a slight increase compared to last year. The number of minority’s participating statewide are much lower, however, with 39% of Hispanics, 37% Native Americans and 34% African Americans participating in Iowa. This is the second year that all graduating seniors from Iowa’s largest school district, Des Moines, have taken the test, and the first year that Clinton seniors have all participated.

States that require all students to take the ACT have seen improved scores after an initial dip in scores. Director Glass used Illinois as an example of a state that experienced this. ACT officials say increased access to the test helps steer more students toward higher education and allows states and school districts to evaluate how well students are being prepared for college and careers.

“There is a lot of room for growth in assessing college and career readiness for all Iowa students,” Glass said.

Scores also show that those students who stick with core courses longer, score better in the ACT test. Iowa students who reported taking core courses earned an average composite ACT score of 23, while those who took lighter course loads had an average composite score of 19.8.