Covering Louisiana

Aug 20, 2014 5:26 AM by AP

ACT analysis: Scores same or slightly lower in La.

Average composite ACT scores for students in Louisiana were the same or slightly down from 2013 to 2014, depending on the way they were calculated, state officials said Wednesday, while also noting that more students are taking the college preparatory test and more are scoring well enough to qualify for state TOPS awards.

Louisiana began requiring all public high school students to take the ACT test last year, regardless of whether they planned to attend college. ACT scores are now used in figuring accountability ratings for schools and school districts.

The education department notes in its analysis that students can take the test more than once. When students' best scores are considered, the state average score is 19.1, unchanged from 2013; when the "most recent" scores are averaged, the average is 19.2 for 2014, down from 19.5 in 2013.

The department said it uses all public school seniors' highest ACT scores in figuring school performance ratings. The ACT testing organization uses the "most recent score" of students who take the test more than once.

The analysis of test scores released Wednesday follows figures released earlier this year showing that more students are earning high- enough ACT scores to qualify for at least the minimum scholarship from the state TOPS program.

The Department of Education said 26,805 earned at least a 17 on the ACT, compared to 25,073 in 2013. A 17 is the minimum score to qualify for a TOPS Tech award, which covers tuition at community and technical colleges.

The number of students qualifying for various, more lucrative TOPS awards increased as well. For instance, 3,116 did well enough to qualify for TOPS Honors, a program paying tuition and fees plus $800 at any Louisiana public university. In 2013, the number qualifying for TOPS Honors was 2,938.

Education Superintendent John White said providing all students access to the ACT free of charge has created new college and career training opportunities for students.

"In providing all students access to these opportunities, we stopped cherry-picking students to take the ACT," White said in an emailed statement. "At the same time, our students' readiness for the challenges of universities and community colleges is not at the level it needs to be, especially in mathematics. Our state needs to keep raising its expectations if we expect to compete."

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