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ACT Scores Unchanged From Last Four Years

September 10, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ High school seniors have turned in virtually the same overall performance on the ACT college entrance exam for the fifth straight year, casting doubts on President Bush’s goal for U.S. students to become No. 1 on the world in math and science by the end of the century.

But the number of minority students taking the American College Testing exam and their scores on it did rise in 1992.

Test officials said Wednesday that unless bold steps are taken to boost students’ academic preparations, the nation will not reach the goal, set by Bush and the nation’s governors two years ago. They envisioned U.S. students leading the world in math and science by the year 2000.

″Far too many of our college-bound students, even those planning majors in areas directly related to mathematics and science, aren’t getting the preparation they need,″ said ACT President Richard Ferguson. To reach Bush’s goal, ″we will need to redouble our efforts to properly motivate and prepare college-bound students for excellence in these fields.″

Only about 11 percent of the students taking the ACT earn math scores that would qualify them for calculus courses as college freshmen, said Ferguson. For 26 percent, the ACT scores suggest they would need a remedial course below the level of high school algebra.

Fourteen percent of the seniors reported they plan to major in areas such as engineering, computer science and the natural and physical sciences. However, 14 percent earned scores indicating they would need remedial math in college, and only 25 percent would be prepared to enter calculus.

The 1992 average score on the American College Testing assessment, the predominant college-entrance exam in 28 states, was 20.6 - the same as last year. Over a five-year period, ACT scores have declined only slightly - by 0.2 point, from 20.8 in 1988.

The 832,217 graduating high school students were given tests in English, math, reading and science, with each scored on a 1-36 scale.

A positive note was that 17.7 percent of this year’s seniors who took the ACT identified themselves as minorities, compared to 14.5 percent of the 1988 seniors.

As for the national average, ″We would see holding steady as not all that bad,″ said Patricia Farrant, spokeswoman for the educational services organization based in Iowa City, Iowa. ″ACT scores remain stable as the population tested continues to change.″

Asian Americans scored an average of 21.6 and whites 21.3, both above the national average. Puerto Rican students scored 19.3, followed by 18.4 for Mexican Americans, 18.1 for American Indians and 17 for blacks. Over a five- year period, the scores of minority students increased slightly, from 0.1 to 0.5 points, for all groups.

″The stable and in some cases strengthening performance by minority students ... can be explained at least in part by the accompanying increase in the proportions of minority students taking demanding programs of core course work in high school,″ said Ferguson.

About two weeks ago, the College Board reported a one-point increase in the verbal section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, a competing college entrance exam, and a two-point rise in the mathematical section for 1992. The total 899 SAT score was on an overall top score of 1,600.

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