News

For Release
August 20, 2014

Illinois sees increased number of college-ready students


Illinois’ ACT score continues to rank among the best for states that test all students

SPRINGFIELD — The Class of 2014 achieved a composite score of 20.7 on the ACT, giving Illinois the second highest score among the 12 states that tested 100 percent of their graduates. In addition, the percentage of students meeting all four of ACT’s College and Career Readiness Benchmarks increased to 26 percent from 25 percent last year.Illinois ranks second

“Illinois has been and continues to be a leader in promoting college and career readiness and we’re glad to see this increase in the percentage of students meeting those important benchmarks,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “We will continue to lead as our schools apply standards that emphasize a greater depth of knowledge and real-world application, and we implement a new generation of assessments for college and career readiness with PARCC.”

Illinois high school students will no longer take the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE), which included the ACT, although the state is still making the ACT available to districts this school year.

Instead, new college and career readiness assessments known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will be administered to high school students as well as third- through eighth-graders.

High school PARCC assessments are aligned to state standards in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. High school students will take tests aligned to standards in ELA III, Algebra II or Integrated Math III this school year. The tests are designed to measure college and career readiness and help target the appropriate remediation or acceleration for students. Under new legislation, all high school students are required to take an assessment that measures college and career readiness in order to receive a high school diploma.

Although the ACT will no longer be required, districts have the option this year of also administering the ACT to all 11th grade students at no cost to the district, in addition to giving students the PARCC exams.

The PARCC high school exams are not, however, tied to a specific grade level but are tied to those specific courses, meaning students in any grade in high school may take one or two of the PARCC “End of Course” exams this year.

The number of Illinois students meeting all four of ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks has increased steadily over the last five years. Twenty-three percent of graduates hit the benchmarks in 2010, 25 percent in 2013 and 26 percent in 2014.

The benchmark scores indicate a student’s chance of obtaining a “C” or higher in first-year college courses in English composition, college algebra, biology and social sciences. This increase suggests Illinois graduates have a stronger likelihood of achieving college success.

“Illinois continues to show steady progress in preparing students for college and careers,” said State Board Chairman Gery J. Chico. “With the continued implementation of the new Illinois Learning Standards, students are becoming more prepared to compete on a national and international level and to effectively use assessments to demonstrate readiness for their futures.”

The new Illinois Learning Standards are transforming the way teachers engage and challenge their students. These learning benchmarks focus on mastering a greater depth of knowledge, real-world application that emphasize creative problem-solving and critical thinking. The newly implemented standards for K-12 education in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics set high expectations for what students should know and be able to do in order to succeed in college and careers.

In addition, newly adopted science benchmarks known as the Next Generation Science Standards, will be implemented in the 2016-17 school year to help students stay on track. New Physical Education goals have also been adopted and are being implemented. The State Board will next address updating Illinois standards for arts and social studies.

The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score. A total of 184 Illinois graduates earned a perfect composite score of 36 based on their most recently submitted ACTs. The number of graduates earning a perfect score increased by more than 50 students compared to last year.

Illinois increased its composite score by 0.1, with a composite of 20.7 in 2014 compared to 20.6 in 2013. Illinois’ ACT composite score is based on the 158,037 students tested in the graduating Class of 2014, compared to 160,066 included in last year’s report. This year’s ACT state report continues to include scores from students who were allowed an extended time allotment in which to complete the test. Additionally, based on the 40,748 Illinois students who opted to take the writing portion of the ACT, Illinois received a combined English/Writing score of 23.7, which is 3.1 points higher than the 2014 national average of 20.6.

Since 2003, Illinois' composite score has been among the highest for the group of states that annually tested all of their students. This is the second consecutive year Illinois has ranked second.

The average Illinois ACT composite score has remained steady over the last five years, rising slightly from 20.7 in 2010 to 20.9 in 2012 and sliding back to 20.7 in 2014 after ACT changed the process for calculating state composite scores to include students testing with extended time. Illinois’ ACT composite score is just slightly below the national average of 21.0, which is based primarily on the scores of self-selected, college-bound students. The vast majority of states only test students intending to go to college as opposed to Illinois, where every 11th-grader was required to take the ACT last spring as part of the PSAE. The national score, again based on a more selective pool of students, has also remained steady at 21.0 in 2010 and 2014, with minimal variation in between.

Five-Year Trend Composite Scores

2010*

2014*

2014 Total**

Illinois

20.7

21.2

20.7

National

21.0

21.1

21.0

*excludes students testing with extended time
**per ACT, includes students testing with extended time

Year-to-Year Composite Scores

2013*

2014*

Illinois

20.6

20.7

National

20.9

21.0

*includes students with standard and extended time

Illinois students have made significant gains in all four subject areas from 2010 to 2014.

Five-Year Illinois Subject Area Scores

Subject

2010*

2014*

2014 Total**

English

20.3

20.8

20.3

Mathematics

20.7

21.2

20.7

Reading

20.8

21.2

20.8

Science

20.5

20.9

20.5

*excludes students testing with extended time
**per ACT, includes students testing with extended time

Illinois first required all students to take the ACT in 2001 as part of the PSAE during students’ junior year. Today’s results represent the latest scores achieved by all Illinois 2014 graduates in both public and private schools.

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