More Arkansas Juniors Take ACT, But Scores Remain Stagnant

Jul 1, 2016

The number of Arkansas students taking the ACT has increased, but scores have stayed the same.

Over 20,000 more high school juniors in Arkansas took the ACT this March than the previous year, according to results released today. This 72% increase from 8,733 to 31,081 test takers was brought on by the Arkansas Department of Education’s push to offer the ACT to all high school juniors free of charge. Hope Allen is the director of assessment with the Arkansas Department of Education. She says that more students didn’t mean much for statewide scores.

“What you see is that our scores did stay pretty steady across the state,” says Allen. “We did not see significant increases or decreases, even though we increased the number of students, which lets us know that we had a pretty representative sample in years past of Arkansas students taking the assessment.”

In Arkansas, the average composite score was 18.8 out of 36. The state’s composite average has remained between 18.5 and 19.0 for the past five years, usually coming in just below the 19-point cutoff for the Academic Challenge Scholarship, which is funded in large part by the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. According to the ACT, the national average composite score for high school graduates is 21.

Students in Arkansas struggled to reach the college readiness benchmarks, with only 14% reaching the benchmark in all four areas—English, reading, math, and science. Math and science scores were the lowest, with only a quarter of all students above the benchmark in each section. Reading (31%) and English (49%) were a bit higher.

Allen says that the best way to increase scores is to push students to take more rigorous courses. She also says that the department will help schools and districts ensure that these courses are available to students.

“The first step is that parents and schools take a look at the course work,” says Allen. “From the state Department, the way that we will support that is through professional development for teachers around the content that is needed at those higher-level courses. Also strategic planning at the state Department to help schools understand how to use the test scores and how to help students get to that higher level.”

The report also offers data on individual schools in the state. Within the Little Rock School District, results were mixed. At McClellan Magnet High School, only 0.7% of those tested reached the benchmark scores on all four sections. At Central High School, it was 22.3%. These results come as Michael Poore takes over as superintendent of the Little Rock School District on Friday.

DISTRICT NAMESCHOOL NAMENumber of Grade 11 Students Tested in State Administration Math Average ACT ScoreMath % Met Readiness BenchmarkEnglish Average ACT ScoreEnglish % Met Readiness BenchmarkReading Average ACT ScoreReading % Met Readiness BenchmarkScience Average ACT ScoreScience % Met Readiness Benchmark% Met All Four Readiness BenchmarksLITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICTCENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL59619.731.5%19.953.4%20.640.4%20.231.4%22.3%LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICTHALL HIGH SCHOOL20415.62.9%13.716.7%15.612.3%16.04.4%1.5%LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICTPARKVIEW MAGNET HIGH SCHOOL22018.422.7%19.660.9%20.240.9%19.827.7%15.5%LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICTJ.A. FAIR HIGH SCHOOL11715.91.7%13.816.2%15.46.8%16.33.4%1.7%LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICTMCCLELLAN MAGNET HIGH SCHOOL14715.45.4%13.012.9%14.45.4%14.92.0%0.7%