SALEM - State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo announced this week that more Oregon high school students than ever before took the college entrance test administered by the American College Testing Program (ACT). The increase was largely due to the administration of the exam to all 11th graders by several large school districts across the state, including Beaverton, Hillsboro, Portland and Tigard-Tualatin.

Lake Oswego also saw a rise in ACT takers last year. At Lake Oswego High School, 70 students opted to take it, while 80 from Lakeridge High School took the ACT.

Steve Sherrell, interim director of secondary programs, said he isn't sure if students who take the ACT are taking both the SAT and the ACT or just choosing an alternative to the SAT.

Statewide, however, the average ACT score dropped this year to 21.2, compared to 22.0 in 2007.

State officials say it is because Oregon test-takers in 2008 included students from a much broader range of academic preparation than in past years, including students who may not previously have been planning to go to college.

The national average ACT composite score this year was 21.1, down from 21.2 in 2007.

'Oregon's ACT scores again demonstrate the importance of taking challenging courses in preparing for success after high school,' Castillo said.

A total of 10,589 students in the Oregon graduating class of 2008 took the ACT, a 65 percent increase from last year and the highest total ever. This represents 30 percent of the state's 2008 graduating class compared to 18 percent in 2007.

Over the past few years, a number of Oregon school districts joined a pilot project to administer the ACT to all 11th graders as part of their efforts to measure the college readiness of their students, encourage effective college planning and increase college-going rates.

The percentages of Oregon high school graduates who met or exceeded ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks (defined as 'ready for college-level coursework') are listed here:

* 65 percent were ready for college-level English (68 percent nationally)

* 45 percent were ready in math (43 percent nationally)

* 54 percent were ready in reading (53 percent nationally)

* 29 percent were ready in science (28 percent nationally)

* 24 percent of tested graduates met the College Readiness Benchmarks in all four subject areas (22 percent nationally)

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