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Minnesota leads nation in ACT scores for 9th year in a row

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For a ninth year in a row, Minnesota students had the highest average composite score on the ACT test among students in states where at least half of students took the examination.

Minnesota's average score was 22.9, a slight dip from 23.0 last year. Here's the rest of the top five states (again, among states where at least half of students take the test):

Wisconsin – 22.2
Iowa – 22.0
Kansas – 22.0
Ohio – 22.0

Despite that bit of good news for Minnesota, the test results released Wednesday show a persistent, troubling gap between white student scores and those of their minority peers – both in Minnesota and nationally.

In Minnesota, 62 percent of white students achieved the minimum college-readiness benchmarks in at least three of the four academic subjects tested – English, math, reading and science. That compares to 17 percent of black students meeting that mark, the Star Tribune notes.

Gaps between white students and their Asian, Hispanic and American Indian classmates grew. You can see lots of detailed data on the Minnesota scores here (pdf).

Nationwide, 39 percent of students who took the test were deemed college-ready by the ACT testing company, with only 11 percent of African-American students and 18 percent of Hispanic students meeting the benchmark, Huffington Post reports. That compares to 49 percent of white students and 57 percent of Asian students.

"Education in America is not a level playing ground, and the ACT scores are a stark reminder that race and class hobble achievement, which snuffs out hope, and dogs democracy," Lee Baker, associate vice provost for undergraduate education at Duke University, told Huffington Post.

The "achievement gap" has been the subject of much attention in recent years, and Minnesota education officials earlier this year touted some success in an effort to narrow it.

A coalition dedicated to shrinking the achievement gap led by former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak released its first recommendations earlier this week.

States pay for ACT

Roughly 76 percent of Minnesota graduates take the ACT. Nationwide, the percentage of students taking the ACT continues to grow, although there are still some states where less than half of students take the exam, opting for other college-readiness exams. In Connecticut, for example, less than 30 percent of students take the ACT test, although they score higher than Minnesota's average.

The Washington Post has a graph that shows the percentage of students who take the test in each state, along with average composite scores.

Minnesota is among a growing number of states that are paying for high school juniors to take the ACT. Thirteen states already pay for the tests, and five more will join the list next year, the Washington Post reports.

Beginning in 2014-15, all Minnesota juniors will take the exam for free as part of a measure approved by the Legislature. In addition, eighth- and 10th-graders will take ACT-developed tests to gauge whether they are on track to do well when they take the exam in 11th grade, the Pioneer Press noted.

For more background on Minnesota scores, the state's office of higher education has a graph that charts the state's overall success compared to the national average in recent years.

Here's a state chart that shows test scores going back a decade, sorted by student racial/ethnic background.

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