NEWS RELEASES 2012-13 :: SEPTEMBER 7, 2012


For the first time, nearly all North Carolina 11th graders took the ACT college admissions tests in March, and results show that students and educators must make the senior year matter for students preparing to succeed in post secondary education, according to results presented by State Superintendent June Atkinson in her monthly report to the State Board of Education.

North Carolina high school students took three new assessments in 2011-12 to transition the state's accountability model toward college and career readiness. The goals of these assessments are to hold schools accountable for increasing the college and career readiness of students and also to provide students with important information to help them prepare for education and career decisions after high school.

The new college/career readiness assessments are: PLAN (for 10th grade students); ACT (for 11th grade students); and WorkKeys (for students who are Career and Technical Education completers). The State Board of Education yesterday received statewide results for WorkKeys and ACT. PLAN results are provided to students and their teachers for their use in planning students' future course selections.

"Our goal in using the ACT as North Carolina's college readiness measure is to give students a clear picture of how well prepared they are for education beyond high school. By giving the ACT in 11th grade, students have an entire year of schooling left to strengthen their preparation," said State Superintendent June Atkinson.

Summary results from this baseline year are below. Comparison scores are included to show North Carolina's ACT averages for the students who graduated in 2012.


MARCH 2012
English 16.4 21.0 20.5
Mathematics 19.3 22.3 21.1
Reading 18.3 22.2 21.3
Science 18.3 21.4 20.9
Composite 18.2 21.9 21.1

More than 92,000 North Carolina 11th graders (nearly 100 percent) took the state-administered ACT tests in English, mathematics, reading and science in 2012. The State Board of Education in December 2011 selected the ACT to be the state's new college readiness measure for all high school students.

In contrast, approximately 20 percent of the seniors who graduated in the Class of 2012 took the ACT at some point in their high school careers. The Class of 2012 is the last class that was not required to take the ACT.

North Carolina is one of 10 states that now require all 11th graders to take the ACT. The others are Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming.

For states that require a college admissions exam for all students, average scores generally show a drop when compared to test administrations that include only students who voluntarily take the college admissions exam. For example, North Carolina's average ACT score for the graduating Class of 2012 was 21.9, a score that was higher than the national average for the fifth consecutive year. Of that group of ACT test takers, 30 percent met all four college readiness benchmarks. The students included in that group volunteered to take the test in order to qualify for college admission and, in most cases, paid for the test themselves. Twenty percent of the Class of 2012 took the ACT.

In contrast, the March test administration represents a much broader pool of students. Many of them may not have begun planning for community college or university education after high school. It is not surprising that North Carolina's scores would drop when every student is included in the testing pool but it does illustrate that many students could benefit from guidance and support to take more rigorous courses earlier in their educational career.

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test consisting of four separate exams in English, reading, mathematics and science as well as an optional writing assessment. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36 with 36 being the highest possible composite score. Colleges and universities use ACT scores as one admissions criterion for students applying to attend them. In North Carolina, the UNC System has set a composite score of 17 as a minimum requirement for students entering the system in the fall of 2013, but this can vary among the constituent campuses. In addition to the ACT requirements, UNC also has minimum grade point average requirements and there is some discretion granted to chancellors in making admissions decisions.

Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, ACT results will be included in the school accountability model at the high school level. The scores from March 2012, when all 11th graders took the ACT, will be included in the Class of 2013 report next August. The Class of 2013 report also will include the most recent score posted by students.


ACT Benchmark Percentages by State, System and School 2011-12
(pdf, 549kb)

North Carolina WorkKeys Results by State, System, and School 2011-12
(xls, 116kb)

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.