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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah seniors taking the ACT college entrance exam this year continued to exceed national averages for all subject areas, and they -- like their counterparts nationwide -- improved on scores from last year.
ACT spokesman Ken Gullette said it is difficult to say why the scores were higher, but, "We certainly hope its because of raising expectations, raising standards, increasing connections between learning standards and what's being taught, and seeing that students are taking challenging courses in order to prepare for college."
Utah's average ACT composite score rose from 21.5 to 21.7 between 2005 and 2006. The national average was 21.1, up from 20.9.
More than 21,500 Utah students, 69 percent of the graduating class, took the test. That was about 1,000 more than in the class of 2005.
Significant numbers of Utah students scored below college-readiness benchmark scores -- the minimum score a student needs on a subject test to predict a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher in a corresponding college course.
"Nobody can think that we are not a long way from where we need to be when you look at the percent of kids graduating who are still unprepared for college course work," Gullette said.
The percentage of Utah students meeting college-readiness benchmarks exceeds the national average in all subject areas, but in mathematics, the rest of the nation is catching up.
Of the Utah students who took the test, 74 percent met the English benchmark and 60 percent met the reading benchmark. But only 43 percent met the mark for math and just 31 percent hit the science benchmark.
Critics of Utah's education system contend that Utah's above-average score results are misleading because Utah has below-average numbers of minority and low-income students.
On this year's tests, Hispanics, Utah's largest minority subgroup, had a composite average of 19.3, which was above the national average of 18.6 for Latinos. But only 4 percent of Utah students taking the ACT identified themselves as Hispanics, although Hispanics make up 9 percent of Utah's school population.
ACT scores for Asians and Pacific Islanders were combined in the report and fell below the combined national average for those groups despite increased scores in Utah between 2005 and 2006.
"I'm glad for higher scores across the subgroups," said Patti Harrington, state school superintendent, "but what we want are more kids taking the test and more taking rigorous course work to prepare for college course work."
Gov. Jon Huntsman said he will again push for some optional full-day kindergarten programs to close achievement gaps early.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)