PRESS RELEASE - August 20, 2003
New Mexico State Department
of Education

300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Public Outreach Director
(505) 476-0393

New Mexico’s ACT English Scores Rise Slightly

(Santa Fe, NM)—While the percent of New Mexico’s 2003 graduating high school seniors taking the American College Test (ACT) decreased slightly from 63% to 62%, scores in English rose slightly and reading scores held steady, the New Mexico State Department of Education (SDE) announced today. Overall, according to ACT, 60% of New Mexico’s test takers are ready for college English courses, as compared to 67% nationally.

But with New Mexico’s English and reading performance holding steady, performance in math and science saw decreases. The English composite score rose from 19.2 in 2002 to 19.3 in 2003 (compared to national scores of 20.2 in 2002 and 20.3 in 2003) and reading held at 20.6 both years (compared nationally to 21.1 in 2002 and 21.2 in 2003). But the overall math score decreased slightly, from 19.4 to 19.3, and science dropped to 20.1, a five-year low. (The national scores for math were 20.6 for 2002 and 2003 and for science the score was 20.8 both years.)

Overall, the state’s ACT composite test score was 19.9 in 2003, compared to 20.0 in 2002. Nationally, the composite test score was 20.8 for 2002 and 2003, on a scale score of 1-36.

“Our commitment to make literacy a priority continues to take hold with educators, parents and citizens across the state. But far too few of our students show college readiness in algebra, calculus and science. This is about more than student performance. It speaks to the need for our curriculum in grades K-12 to be aligned with the system of higher education and for all of us involved in education to dramatically increase our expectations for all children. The achievement gap among groups of students seen in this data is unacceptable,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael J. Davis.

Overall, 11,871 New Mexico graduating seniors took the ACT. The ACT is a standards-based assessment that assesses critical reasoning and higher-order thinking skills in English, math, reading and science and is used for college admissions, academic advisement, course placement and scholarship decisions. The test reflects educational achievement and measures readiness for future learning.

The composite score for American Indian/Alaskan Native was 16.5, the lowest score reported among the ethnic groups, followed by Mexican American/Chicano/Latino (18.4), African American/Black (18.5), Puerto Rican/Cuban/Other Hispanic (18.6), Asian American/Pacific Islander (21.5) and Caucasian American/White (21.7).

Students taking the core courses or more received higher scores. The composite score in New Mexico of students taking the core was 21.1, while those taking less than the core courses had a composite score of 18.6. The core courses include four years or more of English, three or more years of math, including algebra I and II and geometry, three or more years of social studies, including American history, world history and American government, and three or more years of natural sciences.

Of the 11,871 New Mexico graduates who took the ACT, 52 percent were core completers and 42 percent were non-core completers. The following figures compare 2003 scores for students taking the core and less than the core:

New Mexico
New Mexico
Science Reasoning

ACT predicts that 29% of New Mexico’s test takers are ready for college algebra and 27% are ready for college science courses. This echoes national results that, according to ACT, suggest that many graduating seniors are not ready for college coursework in the areas of science and math. Nationally, only a fourth of the 2003 graduates earned a score of 24 or higher indicating college readiness in science, while just four in 10 earned a score of 22 or higher indicating college readiness in math.

According to ACT, the primary reason why many students lack high-level skills in math and science is that too few are taking challenging coursework in high school. Nationally, less than two-thirds (62%) of tested graduates in the class of 2003 took the recommended core coursework for college-bound students. Fewer than half (45%) of all ACT-tested graduates took three or more years of science, including physics, in high school, while even fewer (39%) took four or more years of math.

“Our high schools must do more to challenge students in New Mexico,” said State Superintendent Davis. “We can and must do a better job of preparing our graduates for their next steps in life.”