The average ACT scores for juniors in Mississippi last school year fell short of the minimum score needed to be deemed college ready in all four testing areas.

Overall, juniors saw a dip in scores from 18.3 in 2016 to 18 in 2017, state education officials said.

State education officials said the average score for English for 12th graders did exceed the benchmark score of 18, although seniors’ average scores on the remaining three subjects did not meet the corresponding scores, known as target benchmark scores.

However, the average composite score among the graduating class increased from 18.4 in 2016 to 18.6 in 2017.

“ACT scores among graduates are rising as more students take advantage of advanced coursework opportunities. Also, testing students in their junior year helps teachers identify students who need further support to help them achieve higher scores before they graduate,” said Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.

The state began requiring all juniors to take the ACT several years ago.

About 5 percent more 11th graders took the ACT this year, which MDE’s Chief Academic Officer Kim Benton told the State Board of Education on Thursday can account for fluctuations in scores.

According to the Education Department, the majority of student subgroups showed improvement from last year to this year.

Starting in the 2018-19 school year, all districts will be required to offer specialized literacy and math courses designed for seniors whose junior-year ACT benchmark scores fell between 15 and 18.

When presenting the results to the board, Benton outlined other actions the Education Department will continue to take to improve ACT scores. Those include providing regional training to address achievement gaps between subgroups of students, expanding Advanced Placement, dual credit and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) options, implementing the new diploma endorsements and informing students of options for ACT fee waivers.

Mississippi’s average scores for juniors were as follows:

Composite score: 18.0, compared to the national average of 21

English: 17.3 (benchmark, or “college ready” score, is 18)

Math: 17.9 (benchmark, or “college ready” score, is 22)

Reading: 18.1 (benchmark, or “college ready” score, is 22)

Science: 18.2 (benchmark, or “college ready” score, is 23)

Mississippi’s average scores for 12th graders were as follows:

Composite: 18.6, compared to the national average of 21

English: 18.2 (benchmark, or “college ready” score, is 18)

Math: 18.1 (benchmark, or “college ready” score, is 22)

Reading: 18.8 (benchmark, or “college ready” score, is 22)

Science: 18.8 (benchmark, or “college ready” score, is 23)

For the spring 2016 school- and district-level ACT results for juniors, click here.

For the ACT score report for 2017 graduates, click here.

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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.