State Capitol Week in ReviewAugust 26th, 2012 by Senator Jimmy Jeffress
Arkansas high school students who took the ACT national standardized test earlier this year showed improvement over last year.
The best score on the ACT is 36. The 26,058 Arkansas students who took the test had an average score of 20.3, up from last year’s average of 19.9. The national average this year is 21.1, but nationwide a far lower percentage of graduates took the test.
What is encouraging is that 88 percent of Arkansas of the graduating class of 2012 took the test. The more students that take the test, the lower the average score will be. Average scores tend to go down when more students take the test, and conversely scores trend upward if relatively few students take it. One reason is that in states where few students take the ACT, most of them have taken college preparatory courses in high school and intend to go to college.
Nationwide, only 52 percent of this year’s graduating class took the ACT. Arkansas emphasizes the ACT. Some school districts pay the fees for poor students to take the test. For all students it is used to determine whether they qualify for scholarships and whether they must take remedial classes in college.
For example, since Arkansas began awarding lottery scholarships the number of test takers has increased by about 3,500.
In some states other standardized tests, such as the SAT, are more popular. In Delaware only 14 percent of this year’s high school seniors took the ACT and in Maine only 9 percent did. In Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana 100 percent of the graduating class of 2012 took the ACT. Of those states, only Louisiana had an average score equal to that in Arkansas; the others were lower.
There are four components to the ACT – English, reading, math and science. Arkansas students averaged a score of 20 in English and math, 20.1 in science and 20.6 in reading.
A writing section is optional, and 2,622 Arkansas students chose to take it. Their average score was 21.6, better than the national average of 20.7. The writing section combines the English section with an essay requirement.
The ACT is not an intelligence test, rather it is a measure of how much a student has learned in high school. Generally, seniors score better than underclassmen because they have been in the classroom longer.
Lottery Sales Decline
Sales of Arkansas lottery tickets in July were a lot lower than in July of last year, according to the most recent report from the state Lottery Commission. In July of 2011 lottery ticket sales generated $7.1 million for Academic Challenge college scholarships, and in July of 2012 they generated $4.7 million
The director of the state lottery attributed the decline to the fact that gasoline prices are higher than last year, and to an extraordinarily hot summer driving up people’s electric bills.
A drop in the sale of scratch-off tickets caused most of the overall decline in ticket sales. Sales of scratch off lottery tickets declined by $1.9 million in July.
Lottery officials estimate that in Fiscal Year 2013, which began on July 1, the lottery will generate about $98 million for college scholarships. In the fiscal year that ended on June 30 the lottery generated $97.5 million for scholarships.
Lottery tickets are sold at 1,884 retail stores in Arkansas. More than 64,000 scholarships have been awarded since the first lottery ticket was sold on September 28, 2009. The first retail license was issued to a chain of convenience stores and gas stations August of 2009.
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