SALT LAKE CITY — Utah high school students scored higher on the ACT college entrance exam than the 11 other states that give the test to everyone in a graduating class.
The 35,000 Utah seniors who took the exam registered an average composite score of 20.8, according to a report from the organization that produces the ACT test.
Utah's average score is below the national average of 21.0. However, only 57 percent of students take the test across the county each year.
The ACT is a college entrance exam scored from 1 to 36 that tests four subjects: English, reading, math and science.
Utah's average score increased slightly from the year before.
Utah State Education officials said in a statement that parents and students should take pride in the results.
But David Buhler, Utah commissioner of higher education, said details in the report show there is more work to be done.
Fewer than one in four Utah students who took the test scored high enough in each of the four subjects to be considered completely ready for college using benchmarks established by the organization that handles the test, The Salt Lake Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1BLUjsv).
"That tells us we're not doing as well as we should," Buhler told the Tribune. "We need to keep pushing."
Mirroring a national trend, Utah students did the best on the English portion of the test and struggled the most with the science section. On English, 63 percent of students reached the college-ready benchmark while only 36 percent reached that threshold on science, the report shows.
In reading, 43 percent of students surpassed the threshold. In math, that percentage was 39 percent.
Another area state officials want to improve is the number of Utah students who follow through on plans to go to college.
Even though 85 percent of seniors plan on going to college, only 40 percent were enrolled the next fall, the report shows.
That may be attributed to a large portion of students going on missions with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The faith allows men to start a mission at 18 and women at 19.
Nearly six in 10 Utah students who said they would go to college are enrolled three years later, closer to the national average.
But even taking into account the missionary component, state officials still want to close the gap and ensure students who have what it takes to get a higher education degree follow through.
The state launched a test program last year that will expand to 50 schools this year in which schools devote a day to helping students with college applications, writing college entrance essays and applying for student aid.
"We're trying to work on these barriers," Buhler said.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com