NEWS RELEASES 2013-14 :: AUGUST 21, 2013


ACT Inc. today released state and national average college admission test scores for the 2013 Graduating Class, including North Carolina's first average scores since the state began requiring 100 percent of high school juniors to take the college admission test.

North Carolina is one of only nine states in the nation that tests 100 percent of its students. The ACT was selected as the state's new college readiness measure for high schools because it measures science as well as mathematics, reading and English. The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test consisting of four separate exams in English, reading, mathematics and science as well as an optional writing assessment. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36 with 36 being the highest possible composite score.

North Carolina's average ACT score fell in 2013. In past years when approximately 20 percent of North Carolina students selected to take the ACT, the state's average score was higher than the national average. With a 100 percent participation rate, the state's average composite score fell from 21.9 points (Class of 2012) to 18.7 points (Class of 2013). The national average composite score also fell from 21.1 in 2012 to 20.9 in 2013.

Other states that have moved to a requirement that all of their students take the ACT experienced a drop similar to North Carolina's but found their performance moving up in subsequent years. For example, in its first year of statewide administration (2007-08), Kentucky's average score was 18.3, but it has steadily increased to 19.6 in 2013.

"The State Board of Education made a bold decision to measure college readiness for all students," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "When we began this process, we knew that our first scores would be lower, but it is important to get a true picture of where we are in order to improve. We know we have our work cut out for us in terms of raising student expectations and preparing 100 percent of our students for community college- or university-level work."

In the past when college admission tests were optional for high school students, approximately one-third of North Carolina high school students did not take a college admission exam. For these students, in particular, the ACT is a new expectation.

ACT Inc. notes that one of the key actions that states can take to improve student performance is to move to stronger standards. ACT points out that the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts are an important first step to improving rigor and instruction, a step that North Carolina took in the 2012-13 school year when it implemented the new Common Core State Standards for the first time in grades K-12. ACT materials also reflect that students who choose to take courses that include four years of English and three years each of mathematics, social studies and science are more likely to score well on the ACT tests. Students taking the ACT as juniors still have their senior year to strengthen their preparation for college-level work.

The ACT scores are a component of North Carolina's new READY school accountability model for high schools. Beginning in October, when the 2012-13 school accountability results are presented for the first time, ACT scores will provide the college readiness measure for each public high school and public charter high school. This measure will be reported as the percent of students who meet the UNC system's admission requirement of a composite score of 17. The accountability model information reported this fall will be based on the juniors who took the ACT in March 2013.

Most of the scores reflected in the Class of 2013 report released today were from the ACT taken by juniors in March 2012 unless a student paid for the opportunity to take the ACT additional times.

Students in North Carolina also take ACT Plan and ACT Explore, tests also produced by ACT to assist students in the 10th and 8th grades respectively to help them see how they need to adjust their course selections to be college-ready. Results from these assessments are considered to be diagnostic tools that students, their parents and their school counselors can use to help guide course selections and career and college planning. Summary results from these assessments show that students in the Class of 2014 are likely to earn higher ACT scores than the Class of 2013.

Today's report includes state level data only. For more score information, please visit


About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 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.