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Catholic school grads average 24.8 on ACT test

College coursework here we come.

The ACT is the nation's most popular college entrance exam, accepted by all universities and colleges in the United States. It tests high school students' knowledge and provides personalized information about their strengths for education and career planning.

Data released from ACT on Sept. 7 show the average composite score for 2017 Catholic school graduates in the archdiocese was 24.8, an increase from the 2016 average score of 24.7. The Missouri state average is 20.4.

The ACT consists of curriculum-based tests of educational development in English, mathematics, reading and science designed to measure the skills needed for success in first-year college coursework. Catholic school graduates in the archdiocese scored high in all areas, particularly English at 25.7 — nearly six points above the state average — and reading at 25.5 — almost five points above the state average. Science and math were four and three points higher, respectively.

"We are incredibly proud of our graduates. We measure student success in many ways and the ACT test scores again confirm the outstanding work of our students and teachers," said Kurt Nelson, superintendent of Catholic education. He cited students' hard work during the high school years, building on the strong foundation they receive in Catholic elementary schools.

The Catholic high school scores include 2,759 seniors (98.6 percent of the Class of 2017) from all 27 Catholic high schools in the archdiocese. The archdiocese has the oldest and largest system of schools in the state of Missouri, with more than 38,000 students.

In 2016, the Archdiocese of St. Louis composite score exceeded 99 percent of all Missouri school districts. The Catholic Education Office releases archdiocesan average scores, but not individual school scores.

According to the ACT's annual score report, underserved students — defined as students who would be the first generation in their family to attend college, come from low-income families and/or self-identify their race/ethnicity as minority — lag far behind their peers when it comes to college and career readiness. And the more underserved characteristics that students possess, the less likely they are to be ready.

The National Catholic Educational Association states that research from the University of Notre Dame shows that the achievement gap closes among underserved students who attend Catholic schools. For example, Latinos who attend Catholic schools are two-and-a-half times more likely to graduate from college.

Some information for this story came from a news release from the Archdiocese of St. Louis. 

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