Minnesota ACT scores increase

Results in Minnesota increased two points from last year, up to a 22.2 average.

by Anna Weggel

Minnesota high school students have apparently been spending more time with their textbooks.

According to a report by the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office, Minnesota’s ACT scores are at the highest level in seven years. Still, the data show significant results between white and minority students.

Minnesota is currently tied with Wisconsin for the highest ACT scores out of the 25 states where more than half of college-bound students take the test.

Minnesota’s results also improved to a 22.2 average, a score two points higher than last year.

Approximately 72 percent of undergraduates at the University are from Minnesota, the University’s office of Institutional Research and Reporting said.

Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education, said he is noticing a difference in students’ academic performance.

“For a range of reasons, students today are more serious, more committed to their education, and that shows up in a whole range of sorts of ways,” Swan said.

Students have an increased work ethic every year, he said, and are challenging faculty by being more engaged in the classroom.

Seeing tuition increase consistently and a more competitive job market, more students are working toward graduating in four years, Swan said.

“People understand they have better opportunities if they graduate in a timely basis,” he said.

Phil Lewenstein, the director of communications and legislative services at the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office, partially attributes the test scores to the 63 percent of test takers who are enrolled in college preparatory classes.

“There appears to be many students with high levels of preparation and (there is) an emphasis on trying to encourage students to take college core subjects in high school,” Lewenstein said. “(63 percent) is very good, but we need to do better.”

The news isn’t all positive for educators. The study also showed that minority students continue to score lower and participate less in the ACTs than white students.

Lewenstein said one of the reasons for the gap is the participation differences between certain demographic groups.

“If certain groups don’t even take the test, it makes it difficult to be optimistic about college participation,” he said.

Minnesota is not the only state suffering from achievement gaps in ACT scores, Lewenstein said.

“It’s going to take a huge effort from educators of all levels to establish high expectations and provide good teaching and learning,” Lewenstein said. “It is clearly a challenge nationally as well as in Minnesota.”

Wayne Sigler, the Admissions Office director, said a 7 percent increase in applications this year is making an already challenging admissions process even more competitive.

“We’re not trying to keep students out of the University of Minnesota,” Sigler said. “We’re trying to offer admission to those students that have the greatest likelihood of being academically successful.”

Sigler said the admissions office gives the strongest consideration to academic factors, such as high school rank, courses taken, grade point average and ACT/SAT scores.

Secondary aspects, such as race, gender and ethnicity are also looked at, although they are “one factor among many, never the controlling factor,” Sigler said.

On the application, there is an opportunity for students to list special circumstances that might have affected their academic performance in high school.

“We read those very carefully,” Sigler said. “Every application is read individually.”

But Sigler said that the admissions office never sacrifices academic standards for enrollment goals.

“Our first and foremost consideration is what’s best for the student in an academic fashion,” he said.