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NEWS RELEASES 2002-03 :: AUGUST 21, 2002


Scores of North Carolina students on the ACT Assessment increased slightly for 2001-02, even as the nation's average score declined slightly. State and national results on the test, a factor colleges use in their admissions process, were released today.

North Carolina's average composite score of 19.9 is below the national average of 20.8. Last year, North Carolina's average score was 19.7 while the national score was 21. A total of 13 percent (9,129 students) of North Carolina graduates were tested while the national percentage tested was 39 percent. The number of ACT takers increased nationally and in North Carolina.

North Carolina generally is considered to be an SAT state because the vast majority of students in this state take the SAT for college entrance. The state's university system accepts either for admission.

Fifty-four percent of the North Carolina students tested completed the core courses that ACT recommends for students who want to attend college. Nationally, almost 58 percent of students tested completed the core coursework. Students who complete the core courses generally score higher on the ACT and earn better grades in college.

State Superintendent Mike Ward said the ACT results, like the SAT, are directly connected to the coursework students take in high school. "It's important for parents and guidance counselors to work with students in middle school to plan the students' course of study in high school. Students who have any thoughts of going to college need to enroll in the courses that will prepare them for this work from the beginning of their high school careers. This preparation will likely result in better ACT/SAT scores and being better prepared for college."

State Board of Education Chairman Phil Kirk said the need for students to be better prepared for their next level of learning was one of the key reasons the State Board approved requiring students to select one of four courses of study in high school. The requirement was approved by the Board in August 1999 and was effective for ninth graders entering in 2000-01. The courses of study are Career Preparation, College Technical Preparation, College/University Preparation and Occupational (only for certain students with disabilities who have an Individualized Education Program).

ACT defines the core college-preparatory curriculum as four or more years of English and three or more years each of math (algebra and above), social sciences, and natural sciences. Nationally, seniors in the class of 2002 who took the core curriculum earned an average composite score of 21.8. For North Carolina, the average was 21.1.

Students who took less than the core courses nationally earned an average score of 19.2 in 2002. North Carolina's corresponding average was 18.2.

North Carolina's Black students had a composite average score of 17.5 (17.6 nationally) for students who have taken the core curriculum and 15.5 (15.8 nationally) for those who have not. White students in North Carolina who took the core curriculum scored 22.3 (22.6 nationally) while White students who did not take the core curriculum scored 19.9 (20.0 nationally). North Carolina scores were not available for American Indians or Hispanics. Neither group met the minimum sample requirement of 100 total graduates tested.

The ACT is made up of four exams in English, Reading, Mathematics and Science. It is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score.

Like the SAT, students choose to take the ACT and the scores do not represent the entire student population. Many factors, including coursework, student motivation, parental support, and socioeconomic status, contribute to a student's achievement.

Local and district scores are not available.

The national, state and local SAT results will be released on Aug. 27.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.