Nearly 3,600 additional public high school seniors scored well enough on a key test to earn admission to a college in Louisiana, state Superintendent of Education John White said Wednesday.
“This is a moment of great opportunity and we should bask in it,” White told reporters.
The exam is called the ACT, which is a test of college readiness.
This is the first year that every high school graduate had to take the test, which has caused controversy.
Louisiana is one of 10 states with such a requirement.
White said that, of about 11,000 additional students who took the exam, nearly 3,600 scored 18 or higher, which is the minimum needed to get into a college in Louisiana without remediation requirements.
About 37,000 students took the test, up from nearly 26,000 last year.
In response to questions, White said he thinks Louisiana’s composite ACT score, which is already below the national average, will drop when the results are announced next month, then rebound in a year or two, which he said happened in Illinois and Colorado.
“The state embraces it, takes it seriously and the numbers grow,” White said.
The ACT exam is scored on a scale of 1-36.
Students get a composite score, which represents an average of their reading, English, math and science results.
The test plays a major role in college admissions and scholarships and counts for 25 percent of annual school performance scores.
The average score last year was 20.3. The national average was 21.1.
Nearly one third of the 3,600 students scored an 18 on the test.
More than 600 scored 25 or higher, or about 18 percent of the additional college qualifiers.
The Lafayette Parish school system had 237 additional students who scored 18 or higher, tops in the state.
The St. Tammany Parish school system was second; East Baton Rouge Parish school system, third; and Ascension Parish school system. fifth.
Opponents of the new test said it makes no sense for students without college plans to take the exam.
About two-thirds of new test takers failed to get a score of at least 18.
Backers say the test prepares students for more rigorous standards and boosts access to college and technical training for disadvantaged students.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, one of several lawmakers who attended the news conference, said current and future gains in college qualifiers will help the state grapple with poverty, broken families and other age-old problems.
“This is a tremendous win for Louisiana and the kids of Louisiana,” Appel said.
Two rising seniors at C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, who attended the news conference, said they took the test in March.
Ryan Range said he scored a 24 on his first try. “I do plan on taking it again to get a better score,” he said.
The state is paying about $2 million per year to expand testing requirements.
The state pays for all high school juniors to take the ACT one time, and low-income students are eligible for two additional tests at no cost.