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Hawaii’s ACT college-readiness testing results trail national scores


The ACT Wednesday released the results of the graduating Class of 2013’s performance on its college-readiness standardized exam, which is administered across the United States. A record 5,345 Hawaii students in both public and private schools took the ACT test in spring 2012, representing a 75 percent increase from the Class of 2010. 

However, results show a majority of Hawaii’s Class of 2013, similar to the rest of the nation, did not meet the test’s college-readiness benchmarks. 

The Hawaii students, most of whom took the ACT as juniors in 2012 and graduated this past spring, represent about 40 percent of the Class of 2013 — the biggest group of students ever to take the ACT in Hawaii. Kaiser High graduate Jason Cheng, a Harvard University freshman this fall, was the only Hawaii student to earn a perfect score of 36 among those included in the results released today.  

In a news release issued by the state Department of Education, Superintendent Ronn Nozoe said: “The good news is the high number of students challenging themselves with the college rigor of the ACT Test,” Nozoe added, “We look forward to improving our results as we continue our focus on college and career readiness.”

The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science. Each exam is graded on a scale of 1 to 36, and a student’s single composite score is the average of the four test scores. In each of the four subjects, ACT sets a college-readiness benchmark — the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding credit-bearing college course. The benchmarks are set based on national level data. 

Hawaii graduates who tested as juniors in the spring of 2012 posted a statewide average composite mark of 20.1. The national average composite score was 20.9. 

In each benchmark area, Hawaii students also posted lower ACT scores than their national peers. In English, 56 percent of Hawaii students met the benchmark, compared to 64 percent nationwide. In mathematics, 43 percent (Hawaii) and 44 percent (nationwide); reading, 37 percent (Hawaii) and 44 percent (nationwide); and science, 30 percent (Hawaii), 36 percent (nationwide).  

Acknowledging a need to boost college and career readiness among graduates, the DOE is taking steps to better prepare students by introducing the following new initiatives in 2013:

>> Strive HI Performance System: For the first time, the DOE is holding schools accountable for achievement, growth, achievement gaps, and college and career readiness. 

As a part of the Strive HI Performance System, the DOE administers the ACT EXPLORE exam to all students in grades 8 and 9, the ACT Plan exam in grade 10, and the ACT Test in grade 11. (In April, some 50,000 intermediate and high school students at public schools statewide took a version the of test. Previously, the ACT College and Career Readiness test previously was voluntary for high school juniors.) 

Based on local research, a composite score of 19 on the ACT exam indicates readiness for entry-level courses in the University of Hawaii System. The eleventh-grade results from the spring 2013 administration, included in the recently released Strive HI results, show that 34 percent of students met a composite score of 19 or higher. ACT scores being reported today are part of the last round of exams taken before the DOE began administering the ACT as part of the Strive HI Performance System. 

>> Common Core State Standards (CCSS): For the first time this school year, all teachers are implementing the Common Core State Standards. The new standards are a set of consistent, high-quality academic standards that clearly define the knowledge and skills all students should master by the end of each school year in order to be on track for success. 

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