ACT scores of Native graduates remain steady

The test scores of college-bound Native Americans remained steady for the third year in a row amid an increase in the number of test-takers, according to results released on Wednesday.

In 2005, American Indians and Alaska Natives who took the American College Test, or ACT, scored an average of 18.7. This was relatively unchanged from the 2004 score of 18.8.

The average stayed the same despite a surge in the number of Native graduates who took the ACT this year. The number of Native test-takers surged by 9.5 percent, a trend that was reflect among other racial and ethnic minorities.

"It's wonderful that more and more students who might not have considered college several years ago are now making plans for education beyond high school," said Richard L. Ferguson, the ACT's chief executive officer.

Test scores were steady among all racial and ethnic groups, according to the ACT. The national average of 20.9 also remained unchanged from 2004.

Still, the scores of Native graduates continued to trail behind Whites (21.9) and Asian-Americans (22.1). Native scores were similar to those of Puerto Ricans (18.9) and Mexican-Americans (18.4), and higher than African-Americans (17.0).

But Native students who took more challenging courses did significantly better, the results showed. Their average score rose to 20.1, compared to the average of 17.4 for the Native students whose academic preparation wasn't as strong, according to the ACT.

Only 56 percent of all test-takers took the "core" recommended courses, the ACT said. Native students were no different -- only 47 percent took four years of English and three years each of math, science, and social studies, the data showed.

The lack of preparation can prevent success in college, according to the ACT, and even in the job market. Other studies have shown that Natives have higher college dropout rates than other racial and ethnic groups.

In total, about 13,700 American Indian and Alaska Natives took the ACT this year. This was up 9.5 percent from the 12,500 who took it in 2004.

Test scores of Native students varied from state to state. California, which has the largest number of Native Americans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, saw an average of 21.5. The average in Oklahoma, home to the second largest Native population, was 19.3.

Native graduates in Alaska, the state with the highest percentage of Native Americans had an average score of 17.6. In New Mexico, the third-ranked stated by proportion, the average was 16.9. (Oklahoma, with the second-highest proportion, was reported as above.)

Nearly a quarter, or 22.1 percent, of Native students who took the ACT had a grade point average of 3.5 or higher, according to the results. Nearly one in five, or 19.0 percent, had a GPA between 3.0 and 3.5.

Overall, nearly 1.2 million high school graduates took the ACT. The test is accepted at nearly every university in the U.S., but particularly in the West, where the majority of American Indians and Alaska Natives live.

The ACT is broken into English, math, reading and science sections. Each section is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. A new writing section was added this year and the results will be reported for the first time in 2006.

The latest results from the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, are due shortly. From 2003 to 2004, Native students showed dramatic gains on the verbal and math portions of the tests.

ACT Results:
2005 National and State Scores | National: Interactive Charts | National: Detailed Data Tables | State: Interactive Map | State: Detailed Data Tables | Press Release

Selected State Results:
Alaska | Arizona | California | Montana | New Mexico | North Dakota | Oklahoma | Oregon | South Dakota | Washington | Wyoming