Education

Vermont students outpace national averages on ACT

Vermont students who took the ACT, a college readiness test, in 2017 scored higher than the national average in the four subject areas covered, according to a report released by the testing and research giant.

The 2,108 graduates who took the test — about 30 percent of those who got high school diplomas in the state this year — scored slightly better in individual subjects than Vermonters who took the test in 2013, according to a five-year trend analysis in the Condition of College and Career Readiness 2017.

Benchmark scores in English, math, reading and science must be reached for students to show they are ready for college level work.

Vermont students on average scored better than the national average in each area of the test. Eighty percent of test takers are ready for college level English (as opposed to 61 percent nationally). In math, 61 percent were deemed ready versus 41 percent nationally. In reading, 66 percent were prepared versus 47 percent nationally. Fifty-five percent of Vermont students were prepared in science versus 31 percent nationally.

Just under half, or 44 percent, of test takers met all four college ready benchmarks.

Students who take four years of English and three years of math, social studies and science perform better on the ACT than those students who take less, according to the ACT.

While 75 percent of the Vermont students taking the test identified themselves as white, the ACT’s national analysis revealed that students who are of a different race, are low income or the first in their family to aspire to college were less likely to do well.

African-American students in Vermont did not score as well as their peers and did worse than their race did nationally. Vermont’s Pacific Islander students performed worse than other students in the state but above average for their racial group.

The Vermont Agency of Education warns it is difficult to draw conclusions from the ACT testing data because so few students take the test. In fact, only 27 African-American graduates and two Pacific Islander students took the test here, according to a breakdown by race in the ACT’s analysis.

In Vermont, 6 percent of the students taking the ACT would be the first in their families to attend college.

The top in-state schools to which students asked to have their ACT scores sent are the University of Vermont, Castleton University, Champlain College and Vermont Technical College. The top three out-of-state schools were the University of New Hampshire, Northeastern University and the University of Maine.

Of the Vermont graduates who said they knew what they wanted to study the careers included nursing, medicine, biology, business administration and management, and education.

The ACT and the SAT are standardized tests taken as college entrance exams by students in 10th, 11th and 12th grade. The ACT is different from the SAT because it focuses on academic achievement and mastery of the skills and knowledge students are taught in school. It also tests science. In recent decades, the test shifted to focus on whether students are ready for careers or college.

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