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August 21, 2002

ACT results show value of Standards-based courses

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ACT scores released today continue to show the importance of encouraging all students to take rigorous courses -- often defined as college-preparatory – that are aligned with the Illinois Learning Standards, according to state education officials.

The results for the Class of 2002, the first group to take the ACT as a required part of the Prairie State Achievement Examination, show that students who take the core curriculum scored much higher than their peers with less than core. ACT defines the core curriculum as four years of English and three or more of mathematics, social sciences and natural sciences. State statutes require Illinois graduates to take three years of language arts, two years of mathematics and social studies and one of science. Local school boards set additional graduation requirements.

“Rigorous coursework that was once reserved for the college-bound is necessary for success in the 21st Century,” said State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller. “The Illinois Learning Standards establish those high expectations for all our students.”

“As schools continue integrating the Illinois Learning Standards into their curricula, students will be getting more of the advanced knowledge provided in core courses,” Schiller said. “We will continue doing what we can to encourage and assist schools in their efforts to help students achieve the rigorous targets set by the Illinois Learning Standards.”

As expected with the increased population of test takers, a smaller percentage of 2002 graduates taking the ACT reported having taken the core curriculum: 45% compared to over 54% of those tested in the Class of 2001.

"Illinois students who took the core curriculum earned an average composite score of 22.4, significantly higher than the 18.4 composite score of those who did not complete the college prep core," said Daniel J. LaVista, Executive Director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

"We know that two-thirds of this graduating class will go on immediately to postsecondary education and that within two years upwards of 75 percent will be in college. When only 45 percent of the graduating seniors report having taken the college prep curriculum, it is clear that many students will enter college unprepared for the academic rigors of higher education. We simply must raise the number of students taking the college prep core. These test results reinforce the need to seek legislation that will strengthen the high school curriculum for all students."

Illinois and Colorado began requiring all students to take the ACT in 2001 as 11th graders. This is the first ACT report of graduating seniors that reflects the scores for that increased population. In all other states, the ACT is taken only by college-bound students who choose to participate at national test sites and pay the required fee. Nationally, the number of 2002 graduates taking the ACT increased just over 46,000 and nearly 40,000 of those increased test takers were from Illinois schools.

Illinois’ average composite ACT score for 2002 graduates was 20.1, compared to 21.6 the previous year when the test was taken voluntarily by those students considering college entrance. The national average for 2002 graduates was 20.8.

“Thousands of students who had not considered college as a possibility took the ACT as a required part of the PSAE,” explained State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller, “and many of these students found they had college potential. Opening these additional opportunities for future educational and life successes makes it well worth the adjustment in average test scores.”

Prior to the class of 2002, about 70% of high school graduates in Illinois took the ACT. Nearly all 2002 graduates took the ACT as a required portion of the PSAE.

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777