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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Hawai'i exceeds ACT average

 •  How state compares nationally

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Education Writer

Hawai'i high school graduates who took the ACT exam for college placement this year scored slightly lower than students the year before but did better than the national average for the fourth straight year.

The public and private school graduates slipped marginally in English, math, reading and science, the four subjects covered by the exam, as well as in the composite score. Yet Hawai'i students exceeded the national average in all four subjects and in the composite score.

The average Hawai'i score was 21.7 out of a possible 36. The national average was 20.9.

"These results tell us that Hawai'i students can and do succeed," state schools superintendent Pat Hamamoto said.

Robert Witt, executive director of the Hawai'i Association of Independent Schools, which represents the state's private schools, said it is encouraging that more Hawai'i students are taking the college-placement tests. About 18 percent of high school graduates, or 2,266 students, took the tests this year, up from 2,194 students, or 16 percent, in 2003.

"The good news here in Hawai'i is the increase in the number of high school seniors taking the test, strongly suggesting that more of our graduates than ever will be college-bound next fall, and boasting scores that, once again this year, exceed the national averages," Witt said.

Nationally, the average score went up slightly, the first increase in seven years. About 40 percent of high school graduates took the tests, including all graduating seniors in Colorado and Illinois, the only two states that require that all students take the tests.

The ACT is the main college-entrance exam in 25 states, but more students usually take the SAT exam as a college gauge. The University of Hawai'i, for example, requires incoming freshmen to take the SAT, while the ACT is optional. SAT scores are expected to be announced later this month.

The national results released today by the Iowa-based ACT suggest that students are not prepared for college math and science courses, most likely because not enough high school students are taking college preparatory courses. Sixty-two percent of graduates tested by ACT this year followed the college track in high school, just a 5 percent increase over the past decade. The ACT described recommended college-preparatory course work as at least four years of English and three years each of math, natural sciences and social sciences.

"Science and math are clearly the biggest areas of concern, but we need to see improvement in college preparation across the board," said Richard Ferguson, the ACT's chief executive officer.

The ACT scores showed that students from every ethnic group did better if they took college-prep courses. Asian-American and Pacific Islander students did best on the ACT exam nationally, followed by whites, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Hispanics and blacks.

State-by-state comparisons are not exact because the number of students who choose to take the tests varies. Vermont graduates had the highest average score at 22.7, with 12 percent of graduates taking the tests. Graduates in Washington, D.C., had the lowest average score at 17.8, with 29 percent taking the tests.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8084.

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