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Utah high schoolers' ACT test scores trended upward in 2018, but the state's scores continue to lag behind national averages.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah high schoolers' ACT test scores trended upward in 2018, but the state's scores continue to lag behind national averages.

In 2018, more than 42,000 Utah public school students took the ACT college entrance exam, posting an average composite score of 20.3 — up one-tenth of a point from 2017.

Nationally, the average public school composite score was 20.8, down from 21.0 in 2017.

According to recent results, 36 percent of Utah test takers met college readiness benchmarks in math and 58 percent in English.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson, in a statement, said the Utah State Board of Education "celebrates improvement in the metric of college and career readiness for all students."

While Utah students' ACT scores rose overall, average scores of American Indian, black and students of two or more races fell slightly.

Average scores of Asian students and white students — both 21.4 — were higher than the statewide average of 20.3.

Average composite scores of American Indian, black and Pacific Islander students were 16.2, 16.2 and 16.8, respectively. Average composite scores of Latino students were up slightly from the previous year at 17.4, although all ethnic groups aside from white and Asian students were below state averages.

“We need to continue to focus on closing achievement gaps and ensuring each student is academically prepared to succeed after post high-school,” Dickson said.

Nationally, math readiness fell to its lowest mark in 14 years, according to the latest ACT results. More than a third of 2018 graduates — 35 percent — met none of ACT's benchmarks of college readiness. The benchmarks indicate the likelihood that a student would earn a B grade in an entry-level university course.

ACT CEO Marten Roorda said the drop in math readiness is "a red flag for our country" considering the tech-driven U.S. and global job market.

“It is vital that we turn this trend around for the next generation and make sure students are learning the math skills they need for success in college and career,” Roorda said in a statement.

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ACT’s report includes specific recommendations to ensure all young people have access to a high-quality, holistic education that prepares them for college and career by the time they graduate from high school.

The recommendations are:

• Give educators the resources they need to help improve educational outcomes.

• Assess student learning and implement improvement strategies starting early in students’ educational careers.

• Provide equitable resources for underserved students.

• Ensure that students’ education is holistic and addresses the needs of the “whole learner.”

• Collect, handle and use assessment data responsibly, with special attention to maintaining its security and quality.