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Pencils down, ACT scores in

Scores are in for the Minnesota high school class of 2009 who completed the ACT college entrance exam.

For the fifth consecutive year, Minnesota high school seniors received a higher ACT score than the national average. Minnesota students received an average score of 22.7, compared to the national average of 21.1.

The average scores are based on a maximum test score of 36 points.

The three-hour ACT exam measures students' readiness in college academics in four areas - English, math, reading, and science.

Minnesota does not require all 2009 high school graduates take the ACTs, but five states do - Illinois, Colorado, Michigan, Kentucky and Wyoming. More than 50 percent of high school graduates take the ACT in 27 states.

"The state looks awesome compared to the nation," said Kathy Palm, Bemidji Area Schools District 31 director of curriculum and administrative services.

District 31 seniors received a composite average ACT of 23.1.

"We have really improved in English over time," said Palm. District 31 earned a one-point increase in its average score - from 21.5 last year to 22.5.

TrekNorth Junior and Senior High School reported a composite ACT score of 21.1, which meets the national average. TrekNorth director Dan McKeon says he would like to improve on this score.

"It was lower than what we'd like it to be; we'd like to make the state average," said McKeon. "Many of our seniors spent less than two years at our school coming in as transfers, so we didn't have as much time to prepare them."

Taking the ACT exam is not yet mandated by policy at TrekNorth, but it may be in the future, says McKeon.

"It is built into our college prep program," said McKeon. "Students are strongly encouraged to take the test in their junior year or earlier. If they are happy with it, they don't have to take it as seniors, or they have time to retake it."

District 31 outscored the state average in every area on the ACT except science. In the past five years the district has been between .1-.5 below the state average score.

"We want to be ahead of the state," said Palm. "Because of the MCA-II tests measure math and reading, that's where our emphasis was focused in," said Palm.

McKeon said he was pleased with the TrekNorth seniors' composite reading score of 23.6, but reported improvements needed in math, as the seniors averaged a score of 18.1.

The ACT test also gives schools information about the 2009 graduating seniors, such as which colleges they hope to attend and which areas of study they are prepared for.

The ACT reports College Readiness Benchmark Scores, the minimum score needed on an ACT test, which indicates a certain chance of obtaining a B or higher in the corresponding college courses.

Nationally, 23 percent of the 2009 high school graduates met all four areas of the ACT Benchmarks, a 22 percent increase from last year's class of 2008.

Voyageurs Expeditionary High School had one senior take the ACT test, said Julie Johnson-Willborg, director of Voyageurs, who offered no additional comments. The student's score was not released.