September 17, 2015
JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Education released today the preliminary results from the first statewide administration of the ACT to all high school juniors in the 2014-15 school year, revealing an average composite score of 17.6.
Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, said the results showed that students should continue to be challenged in high school through higher levels of math and science to improve performance on the exam. ACT research has also shown that taking certain specific courses in high school substantially increases students’ readiness for college level work as well as their readiness for workforce training programs
“A key factor in making sure students are prepared for the ACT is encouraging them to take courses in the appropriate sequence and to take core classes beyond those required for graduation. The MDE also will provide technical assistance to principals and teachers to improve the rigor in the courses as well,” she said.
ACT is a curriculum-based assessment designed to measure the skills high school teachers teach and what instructors of entry-level college courses expect. The Mississippi Legislature appropriated $1.3 million for all juniors to take the college entrance exam during the 2014-15 school year. ACT is a predictive measure that indicates how well a student may perform in a college-level course. It is not a measure of content knowledge.
The ACT tests students in four core areas – English, math, reading and science. Results are used to determine college readiness benchmark scores.
A benchmark score is the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding credit-bearing college courses, which include English Composition, Algebra, Social Science and Biology. The results show that 9 percent of juniors met all four college readiness benchmark scores.
Mississippi’s juniors, who are currently seniors, fell below the college readiness benchmark scores in the four major categories.
Jean Massey, deputy state superintendent, said the ACT data is important because for the first time, the state has a true picture of where students are on their path to college or the workforce before they graduate from high school.
“These data allow us the opportunity to redefine the senior year to focus on a big percentage of our students that are just short of college and career readiness. If we can do that, we can drop the remediation level in postsecondary education tremendously,” she said.
For students whose benchmark scores fell between 15-18, the MDE will offer the Southern Regional Education Board’s senior year math and literacy readiness courses. Readiness courses were developed specifically to help close the readiness gap for students who are on the cusp of meeting the ACT benchmark scores. The courses focus on reading, writing and math skills students must have to succeed in the workplace or college.
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications
Jean Cook, APR