The latest results of the ACT college admissions exam showed positive trends in Utah. On average, Utah students who took the test scored higher than the national average. Utah's Class of 2008 scored higher than seniors in past years.
Nearly 22,600 Utah students took the exam, which consists of four tests in English, math, reading and science. Colleges use the scores for admission decisions, academic advising and scholarship and loan consideration. Performance on the ACT test directly correlates to students' first-year college grade-point averages, according to 40 years of academic research, ACT officials say.
It is impressive that two-thirds of Utah high school students take the test, suggesting they have an eye on post-secondary education. But the test results also indicate that ethnic minority students in Utah continue to lag behind their white peers. Schools must continue to strive to close that gap so the dream of a college education is accessible to all.
This is a particularly important issue as Utah's demographics shift. Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the state's population. Historically, Hispanic students have had higher dropout rates than their white peers. Dropping out of high school essentially dooms people to low-wage jobs with few opportunities for advancement.
Utah's schools must continue to emphasize the value of education for all. Boards of education must insist upon higher high school completion rates and strive to prepare as many students as possible for post-secondary education and training programs. While a college degree is not necessary for all jobs in the workplace, people with college degrees and graduate degrees have more employment options.
More than ever, Utah students are not just competing with their counterparts in other states for admission to college and jobs, they are competing globally. All American students need to be successful academically to keep the United States competitive in a global economy. It starts with students taking a long view of their futures. First they must graduate from high school. But they must take courses that prepare them for college or job training because their futures and our economy depend upon it.