The company behind the ACT college admission test said Wednesday that the average score fell on the exam taken in spring 2012, the first time North Carolina required all high school juniors to take it.
The statewide average of 18.7 points in the test of English, math, reading, and science knowledge was below the national average of 20.9. North Carolina's average composite score fell from 21.9 points last year, when just one in five North Carolina students chose to take the ACT. The ACT's highest possible total score is 36.
State School Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson says schools are doing diagnostic assessments for eighth graders and tenth graders to identify areas where students need additional work. She also said parents can do their part to better prepare their kids.
"Make sure that your students, your children, take rigorous courses in mathematics, language arts and science, do not settle for a low level course," said Atkinson.
North Carolina is one of just nine states that tests all high school juniors. It's part of a statewide requirement measuring whether students are learning what they need for college.
State lawmakers agreed in 2011 to eliminate four standardized end-of-course tests in North Carolina high schools to shift high school juniors to take the ACT to evaluate student performance. Students taking the ACT as juniors can use their senior year to prepare for college-level work.
"When we began this process, we knew that our first scores would be lower, but it is important to get a true picture of where we are, in order to improve," Atkinson said. "We know we have our work cut out for us in terms of raising student expectations and preparing 100 percent of our students for community college- or university-level work."
Other states experienced a similar drop in scores when they made the ACT a requirement, and typically they saw an increase in average test scores in the next few years.