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Another year of low ACT scores for black and Hispanic students prompts calls for change

Year after year, ACT scores in Indiana look pretty much same: Hoosier high school students usually score slightly better than their peers across the nation on the college admissions exam — but black and Hispanic students still lag behind their white peers.

Since 2007, black students have scored several points lower, on average, than every other ethnic group in the state, according to state data.

And the problem hasn’t gone unnoticed. Teresa Lubbers, Indiana’s Commissioner for Higher Education, said the differences show that reporting scores isn’t enough — the state must be more involved if there’s to be any improvement.

“If we are serious about closing the achievement gap, we must do more than simply gather and disaggregate student data by race and ethnicity,” Lubbers said. “We must also use that information to advance policies that give all students the support they need be successful in college and their careers.”

The commission already has programs in place to make sure kids are on track in high school, as well its 21st Century Scholars program where kids can earn four years of college tuition. The state is also in the process of updating its high school diplomas in an effort to increase expectations and rigor.

Compared to last year, Indiana high school graduates who took the ACT in 2016 did slightly better, and their average score is the same as where the state stood in 2010, 2011 and 2012. And while black and hispanic students scored lower on average, their scores, too, have remained consistent for years.

ACT breaks down student scores based on high school coursework. For students who earned Indiana’s more rigorous Core 40 diploma, average scores were 18 out of a possible 36 points for black students. The average score for Hispanic students was , 20.6 and for white students, the average score was 23.5.

Students who earned Indiana’s less rigorous general diploma, average scores were 17.1 for black students, 19.3 for Hispanic students and 22 for white students.

Average scores for all students increased by 0.2 points to 22.3 from 22.1, which is above the national average of 20.8.

For 2016, 27,268 students took the college entrance exam, fewer than half of all high school graduates in the state that year and 147 fewer than in 2015.

But because so few students take the test, it can be difficult to use the scores to compare Indiana to other states.

Read more about how Indiana students did on the ACT in this 2016 summary and the more detailed state score profile.

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