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Kansas, Missouri ACT Scores Up Slightly, But Not All Graduates Ready For College

Kansas students' scores on the ACT edged up slightly this year, with the statewide average outpacing scores nationally by about a point.

Missouri ACT scores also went up in 2014.

But even though the number of high school graduates who are ready for college has increased in recent years, less than a third of students in either state reached college benchmarks in the four subjects measured by the test.

"Now, will we be satisfied with 31 percent of our kids meeting all four benchmarks? Absolutely not," says Kansas Department of Education spokeswoman Denise Kahler. "But we're seeing great trends right now that we are improving. That's great news for Kansas."

The 36-point ACT tests measures college aptitude in English, reading, math and science. The benchmarks indicate which students are likely capable of getting a B or better in college-entry coursework.

"Those benchmarks are high bars – and that's as it should be," says Mary Viveros, who oversees secondary instruction in the Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools' middle and high schools. "We know that our students need to be in that level of playing field."

But because they're such high bars, few students are meeting them in all subjects. Viveros says that has to change. That's why KCKPS and two other Kansas school districts – Clifton-Clyde and McPherson – are now using ACT exams instead of state tests to assess eleventh graders.

Viveros says as schools continue to implement more rigorous academic standards, the number of Kansas students meeting college benchmarks should go up. It's actually increased about 3 percent since 2011.

Statewide, the composite ACT score in Kansas was 22, up from 21.8 in 2013 and slightly higher than the national average of 21.

Missouri is planning to administer the ACT to all high school juniors starting this school year. Missouri's composite ACT score increased to 21.8 after a decade at 21.6.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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