OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma high school students scored slightly lower overall than the national average on the ACT again this year, but blacks, Hispanics and American Indians did better than others across the country.
The class of 2003 scored an average of 20.5 on the college entrance exam, compared to a national average of 20.8. The scale ranges from 1 to 36.
More than 70 percent of the graduating class _ 27,000 students _ took the test, higher than the national average of 40 percent.
``That's remarkable,'' State Superintendent Sandy Garrett said. ``We're always happy when more students aspire to college.''
Eight percent more black students in Oklahoma took the ACT this year, scoring an average of 17.2. That's up from 17.0 in 1993 and above this year's national average of 16.9.
``Our minority students, especially African Americans, are making significant gains compared to their national counterparts, both in increases in test-taking and performance,'' Higher Education Chancellor Paul G. Risser said.
American Indian students scored an average of 19.4, up from 18.9 in 1993 and above this year's national average of 18.7. Mexican-Americans in Oklahoma scored an 18.6, compared to 18.3 nationally.
Oklahoma high schoolers who took the recommended core curriculum to prepare for college _ four years of English and three years each of math, natural sciences and social sciences _ scored better on the ACT. Students who took those courses scored an average of 21.6, while students who did not scored 18.8.
``The biggest factor that affects how well you'll do on the ACT is the course work,'' said Ed Colby, spokesman for the test-maker in Iowa City, Iowa. ``Students who take more challenging courses are likely to do better than those who take the easier route.''
A bright spot in the ACT report was that 59 percent of Oklahoma students taking the test were taking the college preparatory classes, up from 53 percent last year.
Since 2001, state regents have required high school students to take a minimum of 15 core courses to be eligible for college admission.
``The fact that more of our students are taking the ACT core course is certainly good news for Oklahoma, but the fact still remains that many of our students are not ready for college-level work, especially in math and science,'' State Regents Chairman Ike Glass said.
Oklahoma students scored an average of 20.4 on the English portion of the test, slightly above the national average of 20.3. The state's average reading score was 21.1, just below the national score of 21.2.
Sooner state students didn't fare quite as well on the math section of the test, scoring a 19.7 compared to a 20.6 nationally.
``Math scores are dreadful,'' Garrett said.
The superintendent said she has been focusing on math scores the last five years, and that regents are now requiring elementary teachers to have 12 hours of college math instead of three.
Oklahoma students scored a 20.5 in science, compared to 20.8 across the country.
The state's scores have changed little in the last five years, with 20.6 in 1999, 20.8 in 2000 and 20.5 the last three years.
Five students in Oklahoma scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. The most popular score was 20, with 2,296 students.