Mississippi high school juniors performed at a higher level on the ACT (American College Test) during the last school year than the previous year, state officials reported Thursday.

Overall, the average composite score for all 11th graders rose from 17.6 in 2014-2015 to 18.3 percent in 2015-2016.

The majority of student subgroups, or groups broken down by race and income, also showed improvement, according to the Mississippi Department of Education.

“These score increases are encouraging and can be further improved if we continue to challenge high school students with higher level coursework,” said Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, in a press release. “It is important that students take the right kinds of courses in the right sequence so that they are prepared for college and for work.”

The percentage of students meeting the benchmark scores in all four subject areas increased from 9 percent to 11 percent this year.

The Mississippi Department of Education said it will continue to offer the Southern Regional Education Board’s senior year math and literacy readiness courses for students whose benchmark scores fell between 15 and 18. The courses are designed to close the gap for students close to meeting the ACT benchmark scores.

The ACT is a curriculum-based assessment designed to measure the skills high school teachers teach and what instructors of entry-level college courses expect.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.