Sent: Friday, August 16, 2002 4:06 PM
To: District Superintendents, ROEs, Directors of Special Education
Subject: URGENT Message regarding ACT Results from State Superintendent Ro bert Schiller

I wanted to give you and your principals a "heads-up" regarding release of school and state ACT data for the Class of 2002.  ACT will be releasing this information to the public on August 21and the state composite includes results for students from private and parochial high schools as well as the public high schools.  The news media are already receiving the information on an "embargoed" basis.  That means the reporters can go ahead and prepare their stories, including attempting to get reaction from some of you, as long as they do not publish or broadcast their stories until the August 21 release date.

In preparation for that, I have included some background information about ACT results and why they are different for Illinois this year.  To further assist you in the event you are contacted by the media, I have attached a copy of the Illinois press release produced by ACT.  We hope you will find it helpful.

Should you have any questions regarding the reporting, interpretation and use of your ACT results, please do not hesitate to contact Eddie Pawlawski, Director of Elementary and Secondary Services in ACT Midwest Region Office located in Lincolnshire, Illinois (  If you have any questions about dealing with the media, call ISBE Public Information at 217/782-4648 or send me a return email.  I will forward it to our staff.

Every year in August, ACT routinely sends a free report to high school principals (and districts if you ordered an optional report) summarizing the results of your ACT-tested students for the most recent graduating class.  For this year, that is the Class of 2002.

Historically, this information has been based only on your students who a) indicate they will graduate in the current year and b) took the ACT Assessment at some point between the beginning of 10th and the end of 12th grade on an ACT National Test Date under a standard test administration.  The scores in your summary reflect the students' most recent scores (in the event they took the test more than once).

The Illinois Difference
In Illinois, the Class of 2002 was the first in which all students took the ACT as part of the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE) in grade 11.  For most of the Class of 2002, that PSAE-related ACT score is included in your summary.  However, for those students who took the ACT again on a National Test Date since their grade 11 PSAE, their most recent score is reflected in your summary.

Keep in mind that by implementing the PSAE, Illinois' ACT public school student participation rate grew from about 65 percent to nearly 100 percent.  Many of your schools probably experienced comparable increases, and this impacts the interpretation of your results against your past trends. 

As was explained to you in a May 24 e-mail from this office, the state ACT composite from just the PSAE administration of the test for the Class of 2002 was 19.4.  That was just slightly below the national average compared to the Class of 2001 composite of 21.5 that was slightly above the nation.

We are also aware that you may chose to disaggregate your results based on particular variables contained within the ACT student record and/or in conjunction with other additional information available locally. To assist you in this effort, ACT will be sending you a CD containing all student records (including scores and other background information) included in your ACT School Profile. This CD should arrive at your school the week of August 26.  


EMBARGOED UNTIL: 12:01 a.m. (all time zones), Wednesday, August 21, 2002                         

CONTACT:        Ken Gullette                            Ed Colby

                Director, Media Relations               Senior Communications Associate

                Phone (319) 337-1028            Phone (319) 337-1028

                E-mail         Email

NOTE TO EDITORS/REPORTERS: This news release and accompanying documents report information about students in the high school graduating class of 2002 who took the ACT Assessment. States, districts and schools receive similar information about their students. However, ACT releases only national and selected state data; ACT does not release local district or school data. You must contact district and school offices for local information.  This is embargoed until 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, August 21, 2002.



IOWA CITY, IOWA, August 21-The average ACT composite score for Illinois' graduating class of 2002-the first class in which all public high school students took the exam as part of the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) for 11th graders-was 20.1. This compares to 21.6 earned by last year's graduates, when the exam was taken on a voluntary basis by only those students who were considering going to college. The average national ACT composite score this year was 20.8.

The decline in the Illinois average composite score was not a surprise. Because of Illinois' bold move to give all 11th graders the ACT Assessment as a part of the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE), the 2002 score data are based on a greatly expanded pool of test-takers compared to past years.  Previously, ACT scores reflected a voluntary group of test-takers that likely considered themselves to be college-bound.  This year's scores include thousands of additional test-takers who were not intending to go to college and were not taking the rigorous, "core" college-preparatory coursework that would prepare them for college.

Nearly 129,000 members of the Illinois Class of 2002 took the ACT Assessment, an

increase of 40,000 students over the Class of 2001.  Many of the extra 40,000 students may not otherwise have taken the exam because they were not considering college as an option. More than 25,000 of these students reported that they did not take a college-preparatory curriculum in high school.

The ACT Assessment was included in the PSAE because it is a curriculum-based achievement test which matches up closely with Illinois' state learning standards in English,

mathematics, reading, and science. It was intended to help measure student achievement of state standards, and to identify qualified students who were not previously planning to attend college. Although Illinois education officials realized a decline in the state's average scores was likely, they believed there were tremendous benefits in having all students take the ACT.

"Thousands of Illinois students in the class of 2002 who did not consider themselves

college-bound earned ACT scores that indicated that they were, in fact, ready for college-level coursework," said ACT President Richard L. Ferguson. "As a result, many of those students have been encouraged to change their plans and consider entering college in the fall.  This shows the farsightedness of state education officials who decided to give all students the ACT."

The Importance of Taking "Core" College-Preparatory Coursework

ACT defines the core college-preparatory curriculum as four or more years of English and three or more years each of math (algebra and above), social sciences, and natural

sciences. Fewer than half (45%) of Illinois' ACT-tested seniors in 2002 who reported their course-taking behavior said they took the core curriculum, compared to 50 percent or more for each of the past six years.

Because the content of the ACT Assessment is based on the subject matter skills

taught in America's schools and deemed important for incoming college freshman to know, students who take the core curriculum in high school tend to earn higher scores on the ACT-and are better prepared for college-than those who don't. Illinois seniors who took the core curriculum earned an average composite score of 22.4 on the ACT Assessment this

year, higher than the national average of 21.8 for core-curriculum students. In contrast, those Illinois students who took less than the core curriculum earned an average score of 18.4, lower than the national average of 19.2 for these students.

"These results point out the importance of taking challenging, college-preparatory coursework in high school," said Ferguson. "Those students who do otherwise will find themselves academically under-prepared when they arrive at college."

The ACT Assessment is made up of four separate exams in English, reading, mathematics and science. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score. The test is administered in all 50 states and is the predominant college entrance exam in 25 states, including Illinois. ACT scores are accepted at virtually all colleges and universities in the nation. A national curriculum survey, conducted by ACT every three years, is used to ensure that the ACT Assessment reflects what high schools are teaching and what students are expected to know when they begin their first year in college.

Males and Females Earn Equal Average Scores

        In the past, when the ACT Assessment was taken in Illinois only by students hoping to attend college, males typically earned higher average composite scores than females. Last year, for example, males outscored females in the state by half a point (0.5). This year, however, with all students taking the exam, males and females in the Illinois class of 2002 earned an identical average composite score of 20.1.

Also, in the past, female students greatly outnumbered male students taking the ACT in Illinois. In 2001, 55 percent of the ACT-tested graduates in Illinois were female. This year, however, the numbers of male and female test-takers were more balanced in the state-51 percent were female, while 49 percent were male.

Males and females continue to show strengths in different subject areas, however.

Males again earned higher average scores than females on ACT's mathematics and science tests, while females earned higher average scores on the English and reading tests. This was true nationally as well.

Small Score Declines Among All Racial/Ethnic Groups

Among various racial/ethnic groups, Asian-American students in Illinois earned the highest average ACT composite score at 22.1, followed by Caucasian students at 21.5, Mexican-American/Chicano students at 17.5, Puerto Rican/Hispanic students at 17.4, American Indians/Alaskan Native students at 16.8, and African-American students at 16.5.

Average ACT scores were lower among students in all racial/ethnic groups in Illinois compared to last year, again primarily due to the expanded pool of test-takers and the larger percentage of students who did not take the core coursework. Scores for Hispanic and Caucasian students dropped by slightly more than one point, while scores for Asian-American and African-American students dropped by less than one point compared to 2001.

 "Research recently conducted by ACT in Chicago and other major cities across the

U.S. suggested that urban African-American and Hispanic high school students don't always get the information they need, when they need it, to adequately prepare for college," said Ferguson. "The challenge facing school districts is to provide all students and their parents with the expertise and resources they need to get ready for college-level coursework."

Preparation is a clear factor in the scores earned by racial/ethnic minority students on the ACT Assessment in Illinois. Among Asian-American test-takers-the highest-scoring racial/ethnic group overall-who report their course-taking behavior, the majority (60%) say they took the core college-preparatory curriculum in high school.  Half of the reporting Caucasian students took the core curriculum.  No more than 36 percent of the reporting students in any other racial/ethnic minority group, each of which earned significantly lower average scores, took the core curriculum.

 "All students need strong guidance in educational and career planning to help them understand the importance of taking appropriate courses that will help them achieve their goals in life," said Ferguson.

Nearly Four in Ten Test-Takers Ready for Selective or Highly Selective Colleges

Among the Illinois students in the Class of 2002 who took the ACT Assessment:

        On the other hand, 35 percent of ACT-tested graduates in Illinois attained composite scores of 17 or lower. These scores suggest the students are only marginally ready or not ready at all to perform at the college level and are likely struggling with such fundamental academic skills as:

Some Illinois school systems, such as Chicago Public Schools, are investing in programs that begin preparing students for college at an earlier age. There has been significant growth in Illinois in the use of ACT's eighth-grade assessment, EXPLORE, and its 10th-grade assessment, PLAN. Through integrated, longitudinal systems such as this, student academic achievement is measured, schools intervene earlier to help students achieve, and students can more effectively plan for college and careers. ACT's system-called the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS)-suggests high-quality instructional activities for teachers; connects teaching, learning, and assessment; and documents the accomplishment of standards and objectives.

"It's important for schools, parents, and students to know what skills and knowledge students possess and what courses they need to take to prepare adequately for college and for their careers," said Ferguson. It's also important for that information to be communicated to the student through appropriate guidance and intervention.  This is the goal of Illinois state educators, and this is what ACT is about-providing information that students, teachers and parents can use so that students can achieve their goals."


For more information on ACT's programs and services, go to the organization's website at

ACT is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides more than 100 assessment, research, information and program-management services in the broad areas of education planning, career planning and workforce development. Each year, ACT serves millions of people in high schools, colleges, professional associations, businesses and government agencies - nationally and internationally. Though designed to meet a wide array of needs, all ACT programs and services have one guiding purpose - to help people achieve education and career goals by providing information for life's transitions.

Robert E. Schiller

State Superintendent

  of Education

100 North First Street

Springfield, Illinois 62777-0001