ACT scores went down in Minnesota in the year the state required all juniors take the college entrance exam to graduate.
The Minnesota Department of Education said Wednesday 64,145 students who graduated in 2016 took the ACT – up 37 percent compared to the class of 2015.
The average score was 21.1, which is a slight drop compared to last year's average score of 22.7, when 78 percent of college-bound students took the test.
The drop in test scores wasn't much of a surprise to Education Commissioner Brenda Casselluis, who said the Department of Education anticipated the statewide average score might drop when state lawmakers made it free for high school juniors to take the ACT in the 2014-15 school year, according to the news release.
"I will gladly celebrate greater equity and opportunity for Minnesota kids any day of the week," Cassellius said. "... We are opening doors and raising the bar for all kids, especially those we have left behind before."
"This is about equity," Cassellius said, noting when more minority and under-represented students take the exam, "it tells me we are removing barriers and creating more opportunities. We will continue to forge ahead."
The program offering free ACT exams to high school juniors only ran for one year, before it was dropped by the Department of Education after budget cuts.
Minnesotans scored better than the national average
Minnesota's average score was the highest of the 18 states where 100 percent of high school graduates took the test, according to ACT's annual score report released Wednesday.
The state's score was also higher than the national average of 20.8.
ACT said in a statement Wednesday that the national average was down this year, too, due to the record number of people who took the college entrance exam.
The testing agency said seven more states funded the ACT for all high school juniors in 2014-15, noting scores went down "significantly" in those states, driving the national average down.