Utah claims top ACT scores for second year

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  • Capsaicin Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 26, 2014 3:42 a.m.

    Life is about having a marketable skill. Not about teaching a bunch of knowledge that 95% of people are going to forget in the next 2 years out of high school. That's how high schools fail. They don't teach marketable skills. Math is not a marketable skill in hundreds of careers. Neither is the finer points of english composition. Sure, its all interesting. But you just wasted 4 years of high school learning theory instead of a marketable skill. 16 year olds should be well on their way to having a marketable skill BEFORE they graduate. The lucky ones are the ones who graduate into the family business because parents taught them a marketable skill.

  • John Locke Ivins, , UT
    Aug. 26, 2014 12:12 a.m.

    I believe that this presents clear evidence of parental participation in education, in Utah and nationally. If parents are not involved, the student is less involved. In my day, many decades ago, parents were involved only through the Parents Teachers Association (PTA). Beyond that and one meeting between parents and teachers once a year, my parents pretty much left it up to others and me to teach myself, study, get good grades, participate in athletics, school student associations and school, student boy government, et.al. and, most importantly, prepare to take these important progress and college qualification/prep tests.

    Parents today are more involved where the family is together and functioning as a unit, with the success of all important to each.

    Congratulations to the students, teachers, and parents who prepare the children for success. Well done.

  • let's roll LEHI, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 8:02 p.m.

    @ Carman

    I guess what's really easy is to do what you've done, try to pass of your assumptions as facts knowing that there's no way to verify your conjecture.

    Frankly, unless the ACT now collects data that it hasn't in the past, I really doubt that ACT takers are asked whether they live in a two parent home or the income level of their parents.

  • Rural sport fan DUCHESNE, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 2:57 p.m.

    I'm just amazed at how we can be upset about statistics we don't really understand.

    As to the inflated grades, it happens, I'm sure. Those are the kids that go to school and find out they weren't as good as mom thought they were, and the should have accepted the grade the teacher wanted to give them used it as a lesson to work harder next time.

  • Malihini Northern, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 10:00 a.m.

    In addition to hiding behind an average ACT score of 20.7...which lets face it, regardless of the national average, is quite low. I mean, let's see the scores as they relate to different demographics and from different socio-economic backgrounds as well as from different college-bound objectives to see if these scores are really relevant as any type of benchmark. But, in additional to that, I would suggest that the school administrators stop treating these students as if they are their parents or church leaders (leave that up to the actual parents) and hold them more accountable to their performance. You know, in the same way that an employer would.

    I think that principle, along with a STEM focused curriculum that has less art requirement for graduation, would go a long way in bringing good and talented UT students up to a comparison level with those they will be competing against on a national level and in today's modern world.

  • Malihini Northern, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 9:53 a.m.

    Furthermore, to continue my comment, when my daughter started school here, she was told that she needed Financial Lit and two arts classes. This was after she had completed 5 AP course up through her Jr. year. We had to twist and manipulate her schedule in order to fit in 2 additional AP courses. I can still remember the counselor asking us, "do you really want to do that? It is your Sr. year. Wouldn't you want to relax and enjoy it?"

    This is the second problem. There is an overall sentiment in this state that school is too hard and that these kids should have more time for soccer, baseball, piano, bike riding, etc. I am all for extra-curricular activities, but they are not as important as a challenging college prep HS school experience. I have also noted, as "carman" points out, how easy it is to earn good grades here. I agree that there is way too much extra credit and make up work offered. Again, this does not help in college preparation.

    I would suggest that the UT administrators focus more on the real world and stop pointing toward spurious statistics to tout their so called progress.

  • Malihini Northern, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 9:43 a.m.

    I totally agree with all of the comments "carman" has made and find them quite insightful. We also moved to UT while our kids were in HS, although we moved from a neighboring state, not from an east coast state, but we also found the same thing. HS academics in UT are very lacking in their college/professional preparation efforts. I base this on two areas: 1) The skewed and irrelevant statistics that are presented (already noted in this discussion) and 2) I work for a fortune 100 company in their recruiting organization and I constantly see the preparation and achievements of college graduates compared to those that come from UT schools. Sorry to say, but for the most part the Utah students just cannot compete.

    I think this is so because of a few different reasons. The curriculum of the UT HS do not emphasis the STEM disciplines enough. In fact, the curriculum often makes it difficult to get the adequate number of STEM classes because it is diluted by requirements like Financial Literature, 2 years of Phys Ed, and 2 years of arts such as ceramics, drawing, or photography. Why are these course not considered 100% elective?

  • lost in DC West Jordan, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 9:01 a.m.

    15 years of my adult life spent outside of Utah. My children started their education in WA. I have seen the differences.

    Your comparison between ALL taking vs only those who chose to take the ACT is the perfect example of comparing apples to oranges.

    38 states do NOT require all take the test. Comparing our results to their results makes little sense. Comparing apples to apples – those required to those required, makes this NOT a feel good story.

    While I agree we should place less emphasis on sports, I think they do serve a role. I think more emphasis and support should go to the arts. Immersion in the arts helps in the development of the mind, supporting the sciences, math, etc.

    You are correct, 20 is not that great a score. Now take out the scores of those who did not want to take it and have no intention of going to college, and what is the average? I think that is a better measure.

    And you both should note, I already said I strongly support ore pay for teachers and smaller class sizes. I have never voted against an education funding tax initiative.

  • bass679 Novi, MI
    Aug. 22, 2014 8:39 a.m.

    @Fitz: 41 years ago in 1973 the average ACT score was 19.2 when measured on the modern scale. In 1990 they changed the content of the test and altered the test scoring a bit. 30+ is excellent. My composite (32 in 2001) was enough to get college paid for at a private school.

  • Fred44 Salt Lake City, Utah
    Aug. 21, 2014 9:37 p.m.

    This discussion cracks me up. So many people saying this is great and proves that we have plenty of money and its about caring parents and great students and a couple of you even included a congratulations to the teachers. In a couple of months when the sage scores come out, the same people that are talking about great kids and great parents who produced these great scores will be berating teachers for the poor sage scores. And I am sure that Lost in DC will come in and blame the teachers union for that in some way.

    I would love someone to tell me what these test really prove. ACT great scores sage poor scores, which one is right? Maybe neither. But the most accurate test is the ACT, because for kids and parents it means something it means entry into college it can mean college scholarships, there is a value for the test taker. For the sage test, no value to the test taker, their life doesn't change if the score 1% or 100%, something that should be considered when looking at test scores.

  • Sasha Pachev Provo, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 9:20 p.m.

    Our strength is not in schools, it is in families. Our son scored 35 at the age of 14, and is currently a senior at BYU at the age of 15. Zero use of tax funds - we home-schooled from the cradle. Math and science discussions at the dinner table, ambitious goals, the attitude of not believing in artificial man-declared limits, no video games and other forms of idiotic entertainment, developing a disciplined brain by training to excel in an endurance sport, and overall the culture of hard work with proper balance is what I believe contributed to the results.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 8:51 p.m.

    To Let's Roll: Unfortunately, the state does not disclose the demographic data, or I would be happy to. It is easier to hide behind numbers that can be easily manipulated.

    To Boo Boo: While your point is valid, scores could be statistically adjusted for the factors you mention. But the education community would pick and choose how they present the data so that Utah looks like it is doing a great job educating our young people, while our results are, in fact, fairly average (and the bar in the U.S. is not high).

    I simply compare the very good schools we saw back east, to some of the better schools here in Utah (we have lived and sent children to essentially the best schools in two of the better districts here), and we have found a significant gap. Others in a similar situation who have moved from great schools back east have had an experience very similar to ours.

    My point: rather than pat ourselves on the back, we should be working hard to do better - much better. Because in my experience, there is a lot of room for improvement, and little reason to boast.

  • BooBoo Orem, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 7:47 p.m.


    It's just as misleading to make the demographic comparison you're suggesting because those two-parent, similar-income, similar-education scores from most other states are still incomplete and skewed. You would be comparing ALL of the Utah students from a certain demographic group with SELECT students from other states who belong to that same demographic. And the other states' (self-selecting) scores will always be higher, proving nothing.

    The most misleading number of the all is the "national average" score since, as the article states, most of those students from the 38 others states are college-bound. Perhaps if someone calculated the average scores of college-bound Utah students, rather than the average of all Utah high school students, then a useful comparison might be made with this so-called "national average." And I suspect Utah would be well above average in that comparison.

  • let's roll LEHI, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 7:19 p.m.


    You apparently ran with the smart kids in HS. I also took the ACT about 40 years ago and got a composite score of 31, which was in the top 1 or 2% and good enough for a full-tuition 4 year scholarship (Trustees)at the Y.

    These days, a significant number of students who take the ACT exam for use in the college admission process take ACT preparation classes that include sample exams. Thus comparing the scores in states where all students take the exam and those where the exam is taken only by students using it for college admissions purposes really is apples and oranges.

    Utah students, teachers and parents should be proud of their #1 ranking.


    Feel free to demographically adjust the results, compare apples to apples and let us know where Utah ranks.

  • Utah Soldier Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 7:14 p.m.


    I graduated from HS almost 35 years ago - the average ACT Score (At least what I was told) was 16.

    Aug. 21, 2014 7:11 p.m.

    @jazzer and lost in DC

    Although it is nice to be on top, an average score of 20 is really not that good. Utah state schools are requiring scores in the mid to upper 20s for entrance. So an average below the standard set by the U an USU is,again, not that good. Knowing my daughter just scored a 33 makes me think of the child on the other end of that spectrum. We need to do better as a whole. No one should be beating their chest over an average score that low.

    It would be interesting to know the first and second standard deviations? How peaked or flat is that bell curve?

    And yes, teachers should be paid more, schools should be bigger or more plentiful so that class sizes are smaller, and all parents should volunteer some time throughout the school year. To bad we don't live in a perfect world.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 7:03 p.m.

    BTW, I don't blame teachers/administrators. They are actually doing well, all considered. But a state with our demographic profile should be doing better. Part of the answer may include putting more $ into our schools (for example, to retain good math/science teachers, and keep them from jumping to better paying administrative roles, or leaving education entirely), but other non-money based solutions would also help.

    For example, expecting more of our students would help. Grade inflation is a problem. Teachers inflate grades for many reasons, but the biggest factors are whiny parents/students. Frankly, its easier to give out a few extra "A's" and "B's" than it is to deal with constant badgering from a student/parent. There are also too many second chance tests, and too much extra credit. All of these encourage sloppy work, poor preparation and limited time spent mastering material.

    Another thing we could do is de-emphasize sports and extracurricular activities relative to 21st century job preparation, and put more emphasis on critical thinking, writing/communication, math, statistics and science. Redirecting some resources to these areas could have a significant impact on the future employability of our students.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 6:28 p.m.

    To Lost In DC:

    I in no way have "I hate Utah" glasses on. I love the state which is why we moved here. But this is a feel good story. Without adjusting the scores for demographic differences, the comparisons made in this story are simply apples-to-roast beef comparisons.

    Compare students from 1) two parent families, 2) with similar household incomes, and 3) similar parental education levels and the comparison would be interesting. Compare children from low income families, with a single parent, with similar education levels, and the comparison is more reasonable.

    Our Utah high school is in a very affluent area, with very little poverty, relatively low divorce levels, and a very high percentage of parents with college/advanced degrees. Comparing our scores to other area high schools makes little sense with adjusting for demographic differences. The same principle applies to Utah vs other states with large segments of poor, urban students with a much higher prevalence of single parent households.

    Many Utahans who have not lived outside of the state don't realize is how mediocre our schools are. It is simply a fact, skewed, apples-to-oranges statistics not withstanding.

  • hanfrina Buffalo, NY
    Aug. 21, 2014 6:03 p.m.

    ... NOT surprising!?! I did-MUCH-better on thee-ACT'S-in my high school sr. yr. than thee SAT'S.
    The then Chicago-based ACT test was more well-rounded than the skewed SAT'S from Boston! Only-REAL-"Rocket Scientists" & Super Nerds could score-WELL-on THEM!?!

  • Steve C. Warren WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 5:51 p.m.

    Most of the 12 states where all students are tested have a far higher minority population than Utah, which tends to deflate their scores.

    Note that Utah's overall score is now below the national average. In past years, when Utah didn't test all students and our scores were above the national average, the State Office of Education emphasized that we were above the national average. They said very little about the fact that fewer Utah students were being tested and that the proportion of minority test-takers here was comparatively low.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 5:43 p.m.

    Well done to all of Utah's students, teachers and parents.

    Please remember this story the next time the teachers unions tell us the sky is falling because we don't spend enough money. We spend plenty of money, get pretty good results and need to work on improving the education process within current funding levels.

    The Education establishment may want to take a close look at what former Governor Mike Pence is doing at Purdue University. While that is college, not K-12, many of his ideas can be transferred to improve our schools while cutting costs.

  • Idahotransplant West Jordan, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 4:59 p.m.


    Rhetoric verses reality! Got to love it!!!!!

    Its time for some people to stop talkling, stop campaigning and wake up!

  • lost in DC West Jordan, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 4:34 p.m.

    While I STRONGLY support increased salaries for our educators and reduced class sizes, I think this article shows it is not how much you spend, but how you spend it. It also shows the support for education from many (unfortunately not all) of our homes.

    Mediocrity? What part of “best in the nation” is mediocre?
    The demographics have nothing to do with it. Below average?? – when compared to those states where only those wanting to go to college take the test, but best where ALL students are required to take the test. Up until a few years ago, the test was discretionary in Utah, as it still is in 38 states, and we were ABOVE the national average then. This is not a “feel good” story celebrating mediocrity. Read the article again without “I hate Utah” glasses on.

  • Herbert Gravy Salinas, CA
    Aug. 21, 2014 4:01 p.m.

    If ALL students were utilizing the great (free) resources (on line) of Khan Academy, scores would be even higher.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 3:25 p.m.

    re: "but educators point out that where participation is not universal, college-bound students typically self-select to take the ACT, resulting in a potentially inflated score."

    The problem with silly "feel good" articles like this is that they fail to take into account demographic differences. Educators are quick to point out factors that justify our below average performance on the test, but fail to also adjust the numbers for factors which make Utah's scores look better than they actually are. For example, show the scores based on demographic segments (income, two-parent households, etc.) and Utah's numbers don't look so good.

    We moved here from back east, moved into one of the so-called top high schools in the state, and have found the schools here to be mediocre at best. Funding and class size may have something to do with this. Other factors are clearly at play, however, Expectations of parents and teachers, the number of children per family that parents have to keep an eye on, the family resources per child, and other factors likely impact the performance of our students and schools.

    Mediocrity should not be celebrated. Demographically adjusted, Utah is just mediocre.

  • Hemlock Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 3:22 p.m.

    Instead of demeaning Utah for its per capita expenditures on education, as is popular in some circles, we should congratulate the schools on using available resources wisely.

  • Fitz Murray, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 3:09 p.m.

    @jazzer I graduate from high school 41 years ago. I did take the ACT test. While I don't remember exactly what my ACT score was, it was 28 give or take one point. My high school friends, with one exception, got between 30 and 32. The one exception had no intention of going to college, but the ACT test was mandatory back then. His score was 22 give or take a point. Maybe we had higher than normal scores, but it appears to me the average ACT score in Utah over the last 40 years has dropped a long way.

    From my point of view, all the changes, modifications, tweaks, and other such things that have gone into our education system over the last 40 years has severely damaged our education system. To a certain extent, we need to go backwards to get our kids better educated going forward.

  • jazzer St. George, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 2:46 p.m.


    Apparently you have not taken the test before. It is very difficult and a 20 is above average score.

  • Anti Government Alpine, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 2:46 p.m.

    @jed c

    Could it be that you are trying to see something that wasn't intended? He seems to be acknowledging and even highlighting the fact that many more minority kids (statistically lower scores for a variety of reasons) are taking the test AND Utah does well. Seems he might be celebrating the fact more are taking the test and their education is improving?

    If they did in fact bring the scores down as you assert he meant, how is Utah the highest?

    Maybe you could provide the statistics that refutes the assertion you assume? Maybe you could show us the big change in college enrollment numbers of these minorities?

    I really don't know what he meant or not. I also don't know the precise statistics about minority college enrollment. I'm guessing you don't either.

    We all know students and/or student athletes that are the minorities mentioned. We wish them and any and all future college attendees all the success in the future.

    Maybe you should stop assuming the worst.

  • Fitz Murray, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 2:26 p.m.

    Mr. Wood, may I suggest you do a little research on this issue. What was the national and Utah averages of the ACT scores 10, 20, 30, and 40 years ago. It would seem to me that the averages have gone down, at least from the 40 years ago time frame. 20 out of 36 is not a very good score.

  • jed c Payson, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 1:56 p.m.

    To Martel Menlove,
    Martel Menlove (State School Superintendent) Quote in Deseret News:

    "What makes this report so significant is that it includes all Utah students," Menlove said. "The number of Utah Hispanic students taking the ACT has nearly tripled in the past five years. The number of Pacific Islander students taking the test has nearly doubled in four years. These scores represent our school population as a whole, not just those who plan to attend college."

    So what the superintendent is implying is that our Hispanic and Pacific Islander students do not plan on attending college. This implication is wrong and essentially racist. Many wonderful Hispanic and Pacific Islander students attend college and are very successful. You are also implying that they bring our test scores down, which just feeds the prejudice and misinformed notions of the general public. Who I am sure will respond with racist remarks to this post.

    I hope these quotes were pieced together by the newspaper and not how he intended them to be linked together.

  • 1978 Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 1:53 p.m.

    @Brave Sir Robin

    Well Said!

    I also thought that only blue states valued education and performed well. Two years in a row? This has got to shatter some liberal sterotypes.

  • mufasta American Fork, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 1:47 p.m.


  • mufasta American Fork, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 1:44 p.m.

    That is AweSome! Congratulations. Excellent work to all.

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    Aug. 21, 2014 12:59 p.m.

    Wait, I thought if we didn't increase per-pupil funding our ability to educate our kids was going down the toilet? Could it be that what it's really about is parents who care and kids who stay out of trouble - not money?

  • USU-Logan Logan, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 12:56 p.m.

    Congratulations to our students! So proud of you!