This year marks the first time in the state’s history that 100 percent of North Carolina’s students were required to take the ACT in 2013.
The ACT is a college entrance exam (some refer to it as the alternative to the SAT) that North Carolina selected as the state’s new college readiness measure for high schools because it measures science as well as mathematics, reading and English.
In previous years, approximately 20 percent of the state’s high school students voluntarily took the ACT. North Carolina’s average score was higher than the national average in those years, with 21.9 being the the state’s average composite score in 2012 (the national average was 21.1).
With the new requirement that all students take the ACT, participation jumped from 19,000 students sitting for the exam in 2012 to 95,000 students this year.
North Carolina’s 2013 average ACT score fell to 18.7, below the 20.9 national average for this year.
Addressing the drop in average ACT scores, State Superintendent June Atkinson said in a statement, “When we began this process, we knew that our first scores would be lower, but it is important to get a true picture of where we are in order to improve. We know we have our work cut out for us in terms of raising student expectations and preparing 100 percent of our students for community college- or university-level work.”
According to the Department of Public Instruction, other states that have moved to a requirement that all of their students take the ACT experienced a drop similar to North Carolina’s but found their performance moving up in subsequent years.
For example, in its first year of statewide administration (2007-08), Kentucky’s average score was 18.3, but it has steadily increased to 19.6 in 2013.
Read ACT’s full report on North Carolina’s Condition of Career and College Readiness here.