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For Immediate Release
August 18, 2004

NOTE TO EDITORS/REPORTERS: The information contained in this release and accompanying materials report information about students in the high school graduating class of 2004 who took the ACT. Districts and schools receive similar information about their students. ISBE does not release district or school ACT data. Please contact district and school offices for local information.

Illinois ACT Scores Rise:  Second straight year since all public high school juniors began taking ACT

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The average score in Illinois rose for the second straight year in 2004. Illinois’ graduating seniors in 2004 earned an average composite score of 20.3 on the ACT, up from 20.2 last year and 20.1 in 2001.

This is the third year in which Illinois’ ACT results included the scores of virtually all graduates in the state. All public high school graduates took the ACT as part of the state-mandated Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) for 11th graders. More than 132,000 graduates in the class of 2004—99 percent of the graduating class—took the exam. The results are for public school 11th graders (public and non-public schools) who would have taken the ACT during the 2002-2003 school year, as well as students who have taken the ACT as recent as June in Illinois. Only a students’ most recent score is reflected in the composite.

“Once again, we are encouraged by the results of the ACT and our testing of all juniors,” said State Superintendent of Education Robert Schiller. “In addition to the scores, it is estimated that thousands of Illinois 11th graders who may not have considered college have earned ACT scores which demonstrate that they are ready for college-level work,” said Schiller.

"The increase in Illinois graduates' ACT scores this year is statistically significant in and of itself—that is, it is a meaningful change which is not simply related to chance," said Cynthia Schmeiser, ACT's senior vice president of research and development. "But, the more meaningful result is the continued growth in Illinois scores over time. This upward trend points to significant improvement in the state." Currently Illinois and Colorado are the only two states that use the ACT, which is aligned with their learning standards to assess all of their junior class.

Prior to 2002, the ACT results in Illinois were based only on college-bound seniors who took the test on a voluntary basis. Next year testing will be strengthened by the recently signed SB 2769 which makes the taking of the PSAE a graduation requirement, which will prevent schools from dissuading juniors from taking the exams.

The results continue to show that Illinois students who take a college-prep curriculum outscore their counterparts statewide and nationally. Known as a “core” curriculum, students who took three or more years of math, science and English did better than the national average. The ACT-recommended college core courses include: four or more years of English, three or more years of math, three years or more of natural sciences and three or more years of social sciences.

“We are seeing more students taking rigorous course work, particularly among females who are making strides,” said Schiller. “Those results, of students in core curriculum, once again point to the need for increasing the graduation requirements as we have advocated for all along. Right now Illinois has the lowest math graduation requirements in the country.”

This year’s Illinois college-prep students earned a composite of 22.4 compared to the national core curriculum average of 21.9. About 41 percent of the 132,525 students who took the test indicated they followed a core curriculum course of study.

“Disconcerting are the results for African-Americans and Hispanic subgroups who are not taking rigorous courses, said Schiller. “While we see more students taking advantage of the ACT and may use it as a pathway to college, we are disturbed by the reporting of their courses that may leave them unprepared for success in college.”

Illinois experienced a slight drop in scores in 2002 when the state began giving the ACT to 11th graders as part of the PSAE in 2001. The test was included because it is a curriculum-based achievement test aligned with state learning standards in English, mathematics, reading and science.

“We expected a drop,” said Schiller. “However, the scores have been rising steadily the past two years and it is expected that this will be a long-term trend.”

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.

Results of the 2003 include:

  • 42 students earned a perfect score of 36 compared to 34 last year.
  • Prior to 2002, when mostly college-bound students took the optional test, males outscored females. From 2002, the scores were closer, with females edging out males.
  • Females continue to slightly outscore their male counterparts for the past three years. The composite for females is 20.3; 20.2 for males. These were both at 20.2 last year.
  • The number of Illinois high school graduates earning an ACT composite score of 18 (the low end of the range for college admission) or higher was 27 percent higher in 2003 than in 2001.
  • More Illinois high school graduates were ready for college algebra (up 21%) and English composition (up 29%) in 2003 than 2001 based on ACT scores.
  • The number of in-state, ACT-tested minorities enrolled in Illinois colleges increased by 17 percent in 2002 over 2001.

ACT is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides assessment, research, information and program-management services in the broad areas of education planning, career planning and work force development. Each year, ACT serves millions of people in high schools, colleges, professional associations, businesses and government agencies—nationally and internationally.
For more information about ACT, visit


bullet item ACT High School Profie Report--H S Graduating Class 2004 - State Composite for Illinois PDF File

bullet item2004 Illinois ACT Data PDF File

Illinois State Board of Education
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Springfield, IL 62777