ACT released its annual report today on how well the students who take the organization’s college entrance exam are prepared for higher education.  Iowa students show some improvement, but the progress is slow.

ACT spokesman, Scott Gomer, says Iowa students in the Class of 2012 are above the national averages in readiness for English, reading, science and math. “For the State of Iowa, it looks like things are going in the right direction. For example, 77% of the students meet the benchmark for English proficiency, 62%-reading, 51% math and 38% science,” according to Gomer.

“The benchmark scores are what we look at to be ready for those first year college courses in the same subject areas.” The percentage of students prepared for college science courses is the lowest of all four. That’s something Gomer says the state is trying to address.

“Science is one of the areas that is more challenging for students, however we have seen that the science and math scores have both inched up slightly over the past four or five years. We think that may be attributable to some additional focus on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — for high school students to get them better prepared for those types of careers which are in high demand,” notes Gomer.

He says when you compare this year’s scores to four years ago, there is some progress. Gomer says 79% met the English benchmark four years ago compared to 77 now, the math scores increased from 50 to 51%, reading dropped from 63 to 62%.

“And science went from 37% of the students meeting the benchmark in 2008 to 38-percent meeting that benchmark this past year. And overall the number of students meeting the benchmark in all four subject areas…went from 29% in 2008 to 30% of the students for the graduating class of 2012,” Gomer says.

He says an estimated 63% of graduating students took the ACT exam in Iowa. Just over 50% of all graduating students nationwide take the test.

 Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass released the following statement in response to ACT’s annual nationwide release of assessment results:

“The ACT is an important and challenging assessment that helps us gauge how well our schools are preparing students for college and careers. I’m proud that Iowa’s average composite score is tied for second in the country among states that tested more than half of students in the Class of 2012; however, we’re still testing only 63 percent of students. If our goal is to have a world-class education system, we must set the right expectations for college and career readiness and then follow through with an exam as an important measure.”