Results are being released today from the ACT college admissions tests taken by students who’ll graduate high school in the class of 2014. ACT vice president Steve Kappler says Iowa students continued a pattern where they scored better than the national average in every category.

“Iowa has continually outpaced the nation, relative to academic achievement,” Kappler says. Thirty-one-percent of Iowa students who took the tests met the mark that showed they are ready for college the four categories of English, reading, math and science compared to 26-percent nationally.

The number of students meeting each of the benchmarks in the four categories changed very little this year compared to the class of 2013. “Part of that that I think is important to recognize is that we have seen an increase in the number of test takers, meaning a greater percentage of the graduating class is taking the ACT, which increases the number of students obviously that are in the pool,” Kappler says. “Where we see that happening in states going from 50 to 59-percent up to 68-percent, which is where Iowa fell this year — we typically see drops.”

Seventy-five percent of students met the benchmark for English this year compared to 76 last year, 52-percent hit the mark for reading compared to 54-percent, math dropped to 48 percent from 50 and science went up to 47 compared to 46 last year.

Kappler says the science number is one that stands out. He says there’s been an increase in science scores over the last several years, with this year’s 47 well above the national average, and he says Iowa is one of the top states when it comes to STEM or Science Technology and Engineering.

Kappler says that shows the dividends from the money the state has invested into the STEM initiative. “It’s not surprising that when you put forth an effort toward STEM in particular and really raise awareness around the state that you begin to see some increases take place,” Kappler says.

While Iowa does well nationally among the state’s that take the test, Kappler says there still room for improvement. “While we have 47-percent who have achieved in science, we certainly would like to see more. And this is not a picture of the whole grad class, so there’s still 32-percent of Iowa students who haven’t taken the ACT. And we need to be thinking about all students, not just the cohort that’s planning to go to college,” according to Kappler.

Kappler says the ACT isn’t the sole test of whether Iowa students are ready for college. “Academic readiness is just one portion of whether a student will succeed in post-secondary education,” Kappler says. “We look at things like academic behaviors — are they motivated, are they disciplined time management skills, do they have study skills. And I think those are critical factors for success that I think parents should really pay attention to.”

He says it’s also important for students to find something they are passionate about and follow that passion. “Parents can really pay attention to and have better conversations with their students about what they want to do. And there’s tools out there that can really foster those conversations,” Kappler says. He says when students align their studies with the things they are interested in they tend to do better and finish college in a more timely manner.

ACT offers interest inventories to help students put in their interests and find the types of careers that would fit them. To find out more about Iowa’s results on the ACT, go to www.act.org.