News

For Immediate Release
August 21, 2013

Number of Illinois students who are considered college ready remains steady


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

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) today announced that the graduating Class of 2013 achieved a composite score of 20.6, giving Illinois the second highest score among the nine states in the country that test 100 percent of its graduates. Illinois’ ACT composite score is just slightly below the national average of 20.9, 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 is required to take the ACT as part of the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE).

Additionally, starting with the graduating Class of 2013, the ACT state reports now include scores from students who were allowed an extended time allotment in which to complete the test. Eligible students may request extended-time accommodations for the ACT, however ACT did not previously include these students’ scores in each state’s composite score.

“Illinois has been a leader in promoting college and career readiness since requiring 11th-grade students to take the ACT as part of the PSAE more than 10 years ago,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “The Class of 2013’s composite score reflects a larger pool of students than previous years by including those who require additional time to complete the exam. Just as we require universal testing, we applaud ACT’s move to include these time-extended score results to help promote high standards and college readiness for everyone.”

The state’s ACT composite score is based on the 160,066 students tested in the graduating Class of 2013, compared to 146,822 counted in last year’s report, an increase explained by ACT’s new policy. For Illinois, the new policy meant an additional 15,481 students with extended time scores were included in this year’s composite score, while about 2,000 fewer students took the test in standard time compared to last year’s graduating class.

ACT officials note that this change, along with another on the cut scores for the College Readiness Benchmarks, affect the ability to make direct comparisons with previous years’ reports.

“The drop in ACT scores for Illinois students should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or readiness,” said Jon Erickson, ACT president of education. “The state results were impacted by the change in the composition of test takers included in the report. As a result, this year’s data should be viewed as a new baseline against which future years can be compared.”

When not including the scores of graduates who took the ACT with extended time, Illinois’s composite ACT score increases to 21.1, slightly above the national average composite score of 21 for standard time test takers. When counting only standard time test takers, the percentage of Illinois graduates who met all four of ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks grows to 27 percent, which is the same as the national average for this pool of test takers.

“Illinois is moving in the right direction in terms of the standards and performance expectations for our students,” said State Board Chairman Gery J. Chico. “We have shown steady gains on the ACT and I have no doubt that we will continue to see improved scores as we implement higher learning standards for pre-kindergarten through 12th-graders and higher performance expectations for elementary students.”

Illinois raises the bar with higher standards and test scores

Illinois has also shown steady progress over the past five years in improving college readiness with 25 percent of students meeting all four subject areas in 2012 and 2013 compared to 22 percent in 2009.
This year, ACT updated the College Readiness Benchmarks cut scores, also affecting the ability to make comparisons with previous years’ reports. The English and Mathematics Benchmark scores remain the same, but the Science Benchmark score went down by 1 point, from 24 to 23, while the Reading Benchmark score has gone up by 1 point, from 21 to 22. As a result of these changes, readiness levels in Reading and Science are not comparable to those of previous year.

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.

To help increase the number of students who meet these College Readiness Benchmarks, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) adopted the more rigorous English language arts and mathematics Common Core standards in 2010 and raised the performance levels of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) in 2013. The ISAT, administered to third through eighth grade students, will now give educators, students and their families an earlier and more accurate indication of college and career readiness rather than waiting for ACT results.

Illinois one of just nine states that requires all students take the ACT as part of PSAE

Illinois requires all 11th-graders, unless they’re exempt, to take the ACT as part of the PSAE. The eight other states with 100 percent of 2013 graduates taking the ACT are: Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming. Utah earned the highest composite ACT score of 20.7, with Illinois a close second at 20.6.

Since 2003, Illinois' composite score has been among the highest for the group of states that annually test all of their students.

From 2009 to 2013, Illinois schools have ensured more 11th-graders are taking the ACT. The number of graduates in Illinois has only increased by 2.1 percent during the past five years but there’s been an 11.3 percent increase in the number of graduates who have taken the ACT in that time frame. At least 16,000 more graduates took the ACT in 2013, compared to 2009. The average Illinois ACT composite score has remained steady over the last four years, rising slightly from 20.8 in 2009 to 20.9 in 2011 and 2012 and going to 20.6 in 2013. The national score, again based on a more selective pool of students, has dropped slightly to 20.9 compared to 21.1 in 2012 and in 2009.

Five-Year Trend Composite Scores
 
2009*
2013*
2013 Total**
Illinois
20.8
21.1
20.6
National
21.1
21.0
20.9
*excludes students testing with extended time
**per ACT, now includes students testing with extended time

The year-to-year composite score for Illinois students mirrored the national average by hovering around the same mark from 2012 to 2013. Note that Illinois’ score differs from the national score because it includes 100 percent of graduates and the state has seen an 11 percent increase in ACT test takers during this five year time frame while the national score reflects mostly students intending to attend college.

Year-to-Year Composite Scores
 
2012*
2013*
2013 Total**
Illinois
20.9
21.1
20.6
National
21.1
21.0
20.9
*excludes students testing with extended time
**per ACT, now includes students testing with extended time

Illinois students who tested without extended time have remained consistent or made gains in all four subject areas from 2009 to 2013.

Five-Year Illinois Subject Area Scores
Subject
2009*
2013*
2013 Total**
English
20.5
20.8
20.2
Mathematics
20.7
21.2
20.7
Reading
20.8
20.8
20.4
Science
20.7
20.9
20.5
*excludes students testing with extended time
**per ACT, now 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 2013 graduates in both public and private schools.

The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score.

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