August 31, 2005
New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Beverly Friedman
Public Information Officer

New Mexico 2005 Graduates Competitive with National Counterparts


SANTA FE With the release of national ACT scores today, results show that New Mexico 2005 graduates held their own compared to their national counterparts. The 11,858 New Mexico high school graduates who took the ACT, a national college placement test, had a composite score of 20.0 as compared to a 20.9 average national composite score.

A closer look at who took the test showed that nationally, minority students made up 27% of all ACT takers, up from 24% in 2001.  Hispanic test-takers also jumped nationally by 40% since 2001.  New Mexico Hispanic students represented 4.7% of the national Hispanic test-takers, while New Mexico Native American students represented 7.7% of the national Native American test-takers.

ACT calculates "benchmark scores" in the four major test areas.  The benchmark score indicates a 50% chance of the student obtaining a "B" or higher or a 75% chance of obtaining a "C" or higher in the corresponding college course.  The benchmark for English Composition is 18; 61% of New Mexico graduates scored at or above that benchmark and are ready for college level English. This score is up 1% from 2004. 29% of New Mexico graduates are ready for College Algebra, same as in 2004, and 20% are ready for College Biology, down 1% from 2004.

Reading skills are critical to a student's success in college courses, and about half of the ACT-tested graduates lack at least some reading comprehension skills.  This suggests that at least half of this fall's college freshmen may struggle to keep up with the reading demands of many of their first year college courses.

According to ACT, too many students are not taking the right kind of courses in high school that prepare them for college and work.   Even when the right courses are taken, many are likely not rigorous enough or focused on the higher-level course content that students need to learn.  Just more that half of the test-takers reported taking the recommended "core" curriculum for college-bound students.

"The ACT scores reinforce that New Mexico students must have available, and enroll, in college prepatory courses,” said New Mexico Secretary of Education Dr. Veronica C. Garcia. "We are on the right track to focus on high standards and expectations for every student.”  

In New Mexico, too few students took challenging math and science courses.  26% of New Mexico students take Algebra 1, Algebra II, Geometry and no more.  Their average ACT math score is 17.9, considerably short of the 22 ACT College Algebra benchmark. 31% of New Mexico students took less that 3 years of natural science courses.  Their average ACT Science score is 18.5, over 5 points away from the 24 ACT College Biology benchmark.

The ACT Assessment comprises four curriculum-based achievement tests designed to assess critical reasoning and higher-order thinking skills in English, mathematics, reading and science.  These tests reflect students' skills and achievement levels as products of their high school experience and serve as critical measures of their preparation for academic coursework beyond high school.  Postsecondary institutions use ACT Assessment results across the nation for admissions, academic advising, course placement and scholarship decisions.