Kentucky's public high school seniors scored higher on the ACT college entrance exam than a year ago, but their performance remained below the national average, education officials said Wednesday.
The average composite ACT score rose to 19.5 for Kentucky's public high school Class of 2012, up from 19.2 in 2011, according to data released by the state Department of Education.
The national average composite score was 21.1, which includes public and non-public-school test-takers.
This year's senior class in Kentucky showed across-the-board improvement with higher average scores in English, math, reading and science, the data showed. But those scores still trailed the national average in all four subjects.
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When adding non-public-school test-takers to the equation, Kentucky's average 2012 composite score among graduating seniors was 19.8, according to ACT Inc., the Iowa City, Iowa-based not-for-profit that administers the exam nationwide.
This year's junior class in Kentucky also made slight gains in ACT scores, the data showed.
Juniors in all but one of the five high schools in Lexington scored higher than 19, the state average for juniors. Henry Clay had a composite score of 21.6, Lafayette scored 21.2, Dunbar scored 21.6, Tates Creek scored 20.3. Bryan Station scored 17.3, according to the state data. School-level data for seniors was not released.
"While the increases in scores are small, they indicate an intensified emphasis on college/career readiness," Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said in a statement.
Kentucky uses only public school scores in compiling its ACT data, said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the Department of Education.
The ACT, which scores on a scale of 1 to 36, is commonly used in the college admissions process.
Meanwhile, 56 percent of this year's Kentucky public school graduating seniors taking the ACT met the benchmark score of 18 indicating they are college-ready in English. The benchmark is set by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
For reading, 46.5 percent of the seniors reached the benchmark score of 20; 42 percent attained the benchmark of 19 in math. The postsecondary education council says students meeting those benchmarks don't have to take remedial college courses in those subjects.
A total of 41,851 public school seniors in Kentucky took the ACT, down slightly from 42,196 in 2011.
Both male and female average composite scores rose in 2012 among public school graduating seniors in Kentucky. The composite average female score was 19.6, up from 19.4 in 2011. Males scored an average composite of 19.3, up from 19.1 in 2011.
This year's average composite scores rose among white, black and Hispanic seniors, the data showed. The average composite score among black public school seniors was 16.6, compared to 19.9 among white students and 18.0 among Hispanic seniors.
Meanwhile, Kentucky's public school juniors' average composite score was 19.0 in 2012, up from 18.8 a year earlier. Average scores rose slightly in English, math and science, while the average reading score was flat.
Slightly more than half of the 2012 juniors were found to be college-ready in English by meeting the CPE's benchmark score. Forty-two percent were college-ready in reading and 39 percent in math, according to the data.
State law requires that all Kentucky public school juniors take the ACT.