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PRESS RELEASE

August 15, 2007

Tom Butler
(850) 245-0413

2007 MARKED THE LARGEST EVER INCREASE IN FLORIDA
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES TAKING THE ACT
~Increase in Florida high school graduates taking the ACT surpasses the national average~

TALLAHASSEE - Education Commissioner Jeanine Blomberg today announced Florida’s largest ever increase in both the number and percentage of high school graduates who took the American College Test (ACT). This year, 81,527 of Florida's 2007 high school graduates took the ACT, an increase of 23 percent (15,228 graduates) over 2006. Nationwide, the number of ACT-tested graduates increased only 8 percent.

In addition to the record number of graduates who took the ACT, Florida saw a large increase in the percentage of students who took the ACT as compared to last year. Of Florida’s 153,100 high school graduates, 53 percent took the ACT in Florida compared to 45 percent (147,700 graduates) the prior year and 42 percent nationally. The ACT is one of two college entrance tests Florida students can choose to take.

“I am pleased to see such a large increase in the number of students taking the ACT; demonstrating that more students are aspiring to pursue higher education,” said Commissioner Blomberg. “However, we must continue our focus on preparing students for their next level of education by increasing the rigor of high school coursework and encouraging students to take higher level classes.”

Florida has significantly larger percentages of minority students taking the ACT than the national average. Minority students represent 51 percent of this year’s test takers, compared to 31 percent nationally. During 2007, African Americans represented 23 percent of the Florida test takers, compared to 13.5 percent nationwide. Hispanic students comprised 19 percent of Florida test takers, compared to 8 percent nationally. Since 1987, the percentage of Florida minority test takers has increased 26-percentage points, reflecting a long-term positive trend.

The ACT is comprised of four separate exams in English, reading, math and science and an optional writing test. Students receive a score for each subject as well as a composite score, which is the average of all the subject scores. In Florida, the 2007 average composite score is 19.9, down four-tenths of a point from 20.3 last year, which is not uncommon when there are also increases in the percentage of test takers. Florida's Hispanic students continue to outscore Hispanic students nationally with an average composite score of 19 compared to 18.7 nationally. Florida's African-American students scored slightly lower than their national counterparts earning a 16.4 compared to 17.

Results on the ACT underscore the importance of students taking rigorous coursework, especially in math and science. In general, students who took higher-level math and science courses in high schools scored much higher on the ACT than those who did not. Florida students who took Calculus while in high school scored an average 24.3 on the math section of the ACT, compared to 20.4 for those whose highest math course was Trigonometry or another advanced math and 17.4 for those who had not gone beyond Geometry and Algebra 2. Similarly, students who had skipped past general science to take Biology, Chemistry, and Physics averaged 22.7 on the ACT science section. Whereas, students with three years or more of science, but not Physics, averaged 19.1, while those who had less than three years of natural science averaged 18.

To bolster student achievement in math and science, the Florida Department of Education recently created the new Office of Mathematics and Science to increase the rigor and relevance of secondary programs to increase the number of students who graduate prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce. This new office will oversee the development and implementation of new world-class math and science standards, develop and deliver professional development, and coordinate all state and federally funded programs in these subject areas. For more information on the Office of Mathematics and Science, visit www.fldoestem.org. In addition, Florida’s high school requirements have increased this year and require four years of math.

The ACT is a voluntary college entrance exam. ACT scores can be used for admission to a state university, the Talented 20 program, for meeting qualifications for the Bright Futures Scholarship Program or for placement into regular college courses. Students may access information about the ACT and other college entrance exams through Florida's online student advising system, the Florida Academic Counseling and Tracking for Students at www.FACTS.org.

To learn more about the ACT and to view the Department’s ACT Trends Report, visit http://www.fldoe.org/evaluation/.