Minnesota students score high overall on ACTs

(AP) — Minnesota’s college-bound students rank near the top on their American College Testing exams despite recent criticism by state officials about the quality of the state’s schools.
Minnesota students earned an overall score of 22.1 on the 36-point ACT exam. That score ranks the state first among states in which more than half of students planning to go to college took the test.
Minnesota tied with Wisconsin as fourth overall. Oregon, Vermont and Washington were higher, and each of those states has relatively few students taking the test.
“At least as far as college preparation goes, Minnesota must be doing all the right things,” said Kelley Hayden, ACT spokesman.
Minnesota’s ACT score — which usually is high — has risen every year since the test was revamped six years ago.
This comes after state education officials last month issued lackluster marks on a state report card assessing Minnesota schools.
School officials said they were pleased with the ACT scores but reiterated the need for school reform.
Bruce Johnson, commissioner of the state Department of Children, Families and Learning, said it’s important to look at the children that the system is not reaching.
“The question we keep asking is how good a job are we doing with the kids who are hardest to teach — the at-risk kids,” he said.
Johnson said Minnesota is no longer among the top five states in education.
“I think it’s fair to say that we are doing better than anyone in the country for those college-bound students,” he said. “But what about the kids who are at risk for dropping out and who may not be college bound? My cut on that is that we aren’t doing a very good job.”
But lawmakers like Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, say the test results challenge the commissioner’s assessment of Minnesota’s schools.
“Again, it shows in a very positive way that Minnesota truly leads the nation educationally,” he said. “My concern is that the education commissioner is emphasizing the negative, and I prefer to build on the positive.”
The Minnesota Association of School Administrators also took issue with Johnson’s criticism. The group said his criticism and the recent report card ignored some favorable data.
The group recommended that the Legislature establish a new office of educational accountability that would be under the legislative auditor, independent of Johnson’s cabinet.
“Data and information need to be used as tools to improve public education and accurately inform the public, not as a wedge to push short-term political agendas,” the group said in a statement issued Thursday.
At the national level, the average ACT score increased slightly from 20.8 in 1995 from 20.9 this year.