ACT scores improve in 2002; fewer students report
taking core courses
ACT scores for Illinois juniors increased slightly in the 2002 PSAE administration
even though a lower percentage of students reported taking core courses,
according to the Illinois State Board of Education.
The mean ACT Composite score for 2002 juniors increased to 19.5 compared
to 19.4 for juniors in 2001. This is the second year that virtually all
high school juniors in Illinois were required to take the ACT as part
of the Prairie State Achievement Examination. More than 6,000 additional
students took the ACT as part of the PSAE in 2002 than in 2001 - 120,137
in 2002 versus 114,099 in 2001.
Even though taking core preparatory courses has been shown to improve
test performance, a slightly smaller percentage of 2002 test takers reported
taking core courses - defined by ACT as four or more years of English,
and three or more of mathematics, social sciences and natural sciences.
Only 39% reported taking core courses this year compared to 39% 40% in
2001. Average scores increased in 2002 for both students who reported
taking core courses and those who did not. Core students earned and average
ACT composite of 22.4 in 2002 and those with less than core averaged 17.8.
The 2002 ACT produced more high-scoring students than in 2001. The number
of students scoring among the top ten percent of students in the nation
with a score of 28 or greater increased by more than 1,400 students to
a total of 10,716. Of those, 31 achieved a perfect score of 36.
In 2002, 60 percent of Illinois juniors earned ACT Composite scores of
18 or higher, a score that would typically gain admission to colleges
with liberal admissions policies. The number of students in this scoring
range increased 3,679 students over 2001. A very high percentage of students
(96%) indicated they were considering college and requested their scores
be sent to colleges and universities.
Other results reported from the ACT portion of the 2002 PSAE:
- English scores increased dramatically; other test results were also
generally positive. Compared to 2001 results, the mean ACT English score
increased .3 to 19.6, the ACT Reading score increased .1 to 19.6, the
ACT Science score remained stable at 19.5, and the ACT Mathematics score
declined .1 to 19.7.
- Performance gains in selected sub-score areas. English subscores increased
dramatically within the Usage-Mechanics area while the Rhetorical Skills
subscore remained unchanged. In Reading, gains were made within the
Social Studies/Science area while the Arts/Literature score remained
stable. In Mathematics, a large gain was made within the Algebra/Coordinate
Geometry area, but slight declines were indicated within both the Pre-Algebra/Elementary
Algebra and Plane Geometry/Trigonometry areas.
- The performance gap between males and females narrowed; females out-performed
males. The student population was evenly divided between male and female.
Females and males both increased their average ACT Composite scores
in 2002 as compared to 2001. Males increased by .2 to 19.5; females
increased .1 to 19.7.
- Scores for nearly every racial ethnic subgroup improved but significant
performance gaps remained. Participation numbers for all non-white subgroups
increased in 2002 – most dramatically for African American/Black
(up 10%), Mexican American (up 20%), and Puerto Rican/Hispanic (up 12%).
Scores increased for every group except Mexican American/Chicano and
Asian American/Pacific Islander (stable) and Puerto Rican/Hispanic (.1
decline). The gap between average scores remains large however. For
instance, Caucasian American/White averaged 20.9 versus an average score
of 16.2 for African American/Black. Differential core course-taking
patterns are one factor effecting this performance gap. For example,
nearly every non-White group with the exception of Asians has a core-taking
rate of 32% or less as compared to the 46% average of the Caucasian
American/White group. However, even taking into account the core differential,
average scores for similar core patterns varied widely among ethnicity.
Differential student aspirations, grade point averages, quality of courses
and curriculum, family support and expectations, and school/community
resources represent other factors that likely effected scores.
- More students demonstrated higher level skills. The number of juniors
in the very upper and more complex categories of skill areas as defined
by ACT’s Standards for Transition increased over 2001. Within
the highest two categories of skills (defined by what students likely
know and can do) within each ACT test, the percentage of students increased
compared to 2001 in English and Science, held steady in Mathematics,
and declined slightly in Reading. Reports are provided to each school
and district analyzing their student performance by skill area. Resources
were also provided to schools for addressing deficiencies.
- Large numbers of students still scored in the lowest skill categories.
The percentage of Illinois students who were categorized as still developing
the skills measured by the ACT (falling within the lowest skill range
of ACT’s Standards for Transition) ranged between 24% on the ACT
Science test to 34% on the ACT English test.
ACT WorkKeys Results Show Higher Achievement of Important Workplace
Juniors also took two ACT WorkKeys tests as part of the PSAE, Reading
for Information and Applied Mathematics. More students scored in the highest
skill level in mathematics that has been identified as necessary for 1%
of the most mathematically challenging jobs. Fourteen percent of Illinois
students attained this level in 2002, up from ten percent in 2001. Fifty-eight
percent of Illinois juniors achieved mathematics skill levels that would
qualify them for 90% of all jobs profiled. This group declined from 61%
The percentage of students scoring in the highest level in reading doubled
in 2002 when 6% reached this level, identified as required for the top
2% of jobs. Fifty-eight percent of juniors met or exceeded the reading
skill level required by 86% of jobs, declining slightly from 59% in 2001.
Additional findings reported from the ACT WorkKeys results included:
- An increased number and percentage of juniors may be at risk in terms
of their employment skills. Based on their WorkKeys scores, 7% of the
students in math and 5% in Reading did not achieve a minimum skill level
required for any of the jobs profiled. In 2001, the comparable figures
were 6% in math and 4% in reading.
- The employability skill gap between racial ethnic groups is large
and increased in size in 2002 compared to 2001. In mathematics, the
percentage of Caucasian/White students who achieved the skill levels
required by most of the profiled jobs is nearly twice that of the percentage
of Hispanic and three times that of African American/Black (68%, 35%,
and 23% respectively). In reading, 65% of Caucasian American/White students
achieved at the targeted level as compared to 39% of the Hispanic and
37% of the African American Black population.
- Females achieved at higher levels than males in reading, and the gender
skill gap increased compared to 2001. The percentage of males achieving
the skill level in reading required by most of the profiled jobs decreased
to 54% from 56% while the percentage of females in the comparable category
decreased to 62% from 63%.
- Males placed more often in the higher mathematical skill categories,
and the gender skill gap increased from 2001. The percentage of males
achieving the skill level in mathematics required by most of the profiled
jobs decreased to 61% from 63% while the percentage of females in the
comparable category decreased to 56% from 60%.
The Prairie State Achievement Examination is given to all high school
juniors in April each year. The PSAE measures student achievement in reading,
mathematics, writing, science and social science. It is the first test
in the nation to combine state-developed items with a college-entrance
examination and workplace-skills tests to gauge achievement of rigorous
standards. Students receive scores on each of the five standards areas
that must be included on permanent records. In addition, students get
ACT results that may be used for college admission and WorkKeys scores
that may be used for employment applications.