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MN students lead the nation in ACT scores; achievement gap persists

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For the 10th year in a row, Minnesota students lead the nation in ACT scores, but the results show there is still a gap in scores between white and minority students.

Minnesota seniors have the highest average ACT score among states where at least half the students took the exam, according to a report released Wednesday.

They averaged a score of 22.7 out of 36 – a slight dip from the 22.9 average last year – but still higher than the national average of 21.

The small dip in test scores isn't worrisome, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius says, because more students took the exam. Seventy-eight percent of the class of 2015 took the ACT, up 2 percent from last year, the report notes.

"Being able to show stable scores with a one-tenth or two-tenths of a percent of change with increasing enrollment is very significant in showing that we're able to sustain this high performance level for many, many years," Cassellius told MPR News.

Minnesota also leads the nation in overall college preparedness. Thirty-nine percent of students meet college readiness standards in English, reading, math and science.

Achievement gap

The number of minority students who took the exam also went up, but they scored significantly lower than their white counterparts.

“... A significant challenge remains in regard to the educational attainment of low-income and students of color, and we need to focus on eliminating that gap," Office of Higher Education Commissioner Larry Pogemiller said in a news release Wednesday.

More than 75 percent of the students who took the exam were white, scoring on average 23.7. That's compared to the 19.8 average score for Hispanic students, and the 17.6 score for black students, results show.

College preparedness is also lacking with minority students, both in Minnesota and across the nation, which is concerning, a news release on the national report notes.

"Our nation’s most underserved students too often are being neglected, trapped in poor education systems and lacking access to critical information and resources in order to navigate the system," ACT President Jon Erickson said in the release. "We simply must do better. It’s time to step up our efforts to provide them and all students with quality tools, skills and behaviors that prepare them for success."

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