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SD ACT scores higher than national average

PIERRE (AP) — Members of South Dakota's high school graduating class of 2013 who took the ACT college readiness assessment scored higher than the national average.

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The test assesses student competence in reading, English, math and science reasoning. The report from the American College Testing company says South Dakota test-takers had an average composite score of 21.9 on a scale of 1 to 36. The national average was 20.9.

Nearly 80 percent of South Dakota's 2013 graduates took the test.

"The fact that such a high percentage of our students choose to take the ACT, and perform well, is a good indication that they are planning on some sort of postsecondary education experience, which is a must in today's world," state Education Secretary Melody Schopp said in a statement Wednesday.

Benchmark scores on the test provide an indication of how students will perform once they enter a college or university. A benchmark score indicates that the student has a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding college course.

Of the 6,723 2013 South Dakota graduates who took the ACT, 72 percent met the benchmark in English, compared to 64 percent nationally. Fifty-two percent met the benchmark in reading, compared to 44 percent nationally. In math, 53 percent of South Dakota graduates met the benchmark, compared to 44 percent nationally. In science, 46 percent met the benchmark, compared to 36 percent nationally.

"Once again, the good news is that when you look at the benchmarks, South Dakota is outperforming the rest of the nation," Schopp said. "But you can also see that we've got plenty of opportunity to grow, and that's where we need to focus our energies."

About one-third of 2013 high school graduates in South Dakota met benchmarks in all four subjects. Nationally, about one-fourth of test-takers met all four benchmarks, ACT officials said.

"Too many students are likely to struggle after they graduate from high school," Jon Whitmore, ACT chief executive officer, said in a statement Wednesday. "As a nation, we must set ambitious goals and take strong action to address this consistent problem. The competitiveness of our young people and of our nation as a whole in the global economy is at stake."

South Dakota's Education Department and Board of Regents have partnered to provide online coursework for students who need to improve their skills in certain areas before moving on to college. Once a student successfully completes the coursework and related assessment, institutions overseen by the Regents will accept that coursework in lieu of a certain ACT score. The two entities also are developing a senior English course and a college-prep math course, both designed to help students brush up on critical skills before leaving high school.