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Minnesota Students Widen State's Lead on ACT Scores




Embargoed until 12:01 a.m. August 19, 2009

Contact: Sandy Connolly, Director of Communications
Office of Higher Education
(651) 259-3902

Data highlights importance of efforts to increase rigorous courses

Minnesota's 2009 high school graduates increased the state's average ACT score from 22.6 to 22.7 on a 0 to 36 scale, pushing Minnesota further ahead of other states where the majority of students take the ACT college entrance exam. Minnesota has led the nation in average ACT scores for five consecutive years and the average score has increased each of the last three years. The average ACT score for 2009 high school graduates nationally was 21.1.

"This is truly great news for Minnesota. When we have clear high expectations for students, they will rise to the occasion," said David Metzen, director of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and a former school district superintendent. "While Minnesota leads the nation, the U.S. lags behind other countries in important educational indicators. We must continue to increase expectations and rigor for all students, and grow the percentage of students who are college ready if we are to compete in a competitive global economy."

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test designed to measure the skills and knowledge deemed important for college success. The ACT is comprised of four separate exams in English, reading, mathematics and science, plus an optional writing test introduced in February 2005.

Top 10 States (Where majority take ACT)
State Average Composite Score Percent of Graduates Tested
South Dakota22.074%

Note: A majority of students in many east- and west-coast states take the SAT rather than the ACT, and therefore cannot be included in this comparison. The ACT is administered in all 50 states and is taken by the majority of graduates in 26 states, including Minnesota.

"Minnesotans can be proud of these ACT results," Education Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education Alice Seagren said. "Over the past five years, Minnesota students increased their scores annually at a pace that was twice the national average. Additionally, we are seeing positive gains in the minority subgroups. These are encouraging results. We must continue our efforts to prepare every Minnesota student for post-secondary success by increasing rigor and high expectations for all students."

The data collected by ACT indicates a strong correlation between taking a rigorous high school curriculum and higher scores on the ACT. Minnesota's results show consistently higher scores in math and science for students who reported taking high-level courses in those subject areas.

In recent years, Minnesota has encouraged high school students to take more rigorous courses in preparation for college-level work. Governor Tim Pawlenty proposed and the Minnesota Legislature approved measures to increase participation in challenging courses including funding for Advanced Placement courses and assessments, a state scholarship awarded to students who complete a rigorous high school curriculum and a state requirement for students to take algebra I by eighth grade and algebra II and chemistry or physics in order to graduate from high school. (The new course requirements go into effect for students in the graduating class of 2015.)

For more information on national and Minnesota ACT results for the high school class of 2009, visit the Office of Higher Education Website at or ACT at

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