Kentucky students do better on ACT, but still fall short of benchmarks

Juniors in Kentucky's public high schools continue to improve their ACT scores, and more of them are ready to tackle college-level work, but results released Thursday show there's plenty of room for improvement.

The state Department of Education released overall results Thursday from the ACT, which more than 44,000 Kentucky public school juniors took last spring. Juniors in Kentucky's public schools have been required to take the ACT since 2008.

While overall scores in Kentucky have continued to climb since then, the picture remains mixed.

For example, Thursday's results show that 49 percent of Kentucky juniors are ready for college-level work in English composition, based on their 2010 ACT test scores, up from 46 percent of juniors in 2009.

The percentage ready for college math rose from 21 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2010. The percentage prepared for college social science rose from 30 percent in 2009 to 35 percent for 2010. And in biology, the percentage of juniors deemed ready for college work fell from 16 percent in 2009 to 15 percent for 2010.

"We are beginning to see the benefits of an early focus on college and career readiness; however, there is much work remaining," Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said in a prepared statement.

Holliday noted that Senate Bill 1, which the General Assembly passed in 2009, requires Kentucky high schools and colleges to jointly develop strategies for making sure that more Kentucky youngsters are ready for college when they finish high school.

"I feel certain our administrators, teachers, parents and students will rise to the challenge of making ever greater improvements in the future," he said.

According to education officials, benchmark subject scores on the ACT translate to a 75 percent chance that a student will get a C or higher grade on corresponding credit-bearing college courses.

Benchmark ACT scores are 18 or higher for English; 22 or higher for math; 21 or higher for reading; and 24 or higher for science.

The 2010 average ACT scores for Kentucky juniors are 17.8 in English, 18.3 in math, 18.9 in reading and 18.7 in science.

Among African-American juniors in Kentucky, average 2010 scores were 14.4 in English, 16.2 in math, 15.9 in reading and 16.2 in science.