Lawrence high school students who took the ACT college entrance exam last spring outperformed their peers in the rest of the state and throughout the country.
According to the school district, Lawrence students taking the test last year had an average composite score of 23.7, on a scale of 1 to 36. That compared to the statewide average of 21.8 and the national average of 20.9.
The 2013 score was half a point higher than last year's average score, but still below the 2011 average of 24, the highest average score Lawrence schools have posted in the past several years.
Statewide, the average ACT score in Kansas fell one-tenth of a point from last year to 21.8, but that exceeded the national average of 21.1.
Lawrence officials released data about local scores shortly after ACT released state and national data from the 2013 tests.
The ACT is one of two major national exams that high school seniors can take to help them get into college. The other is the SAT, but in Kansas the ACT is by far the most common for graduating seniors.
Also, Kansas traditionally has a high participation rate in the ACT exams. About 75 percent of Kansas seniors took the ACT last year. Last year, state officials said, about 81 percent of seniors took the test.
In Lawrence, students at Free State High School scored better than those at Lawrence High School. Free State's average score was 24.4, the highest at that school since at least 2009. Lawrence High posted an average score of 23, up four-tenths of a point from 2011, but lower than the school's average in 2011.
Lawrence district officials were not immediately available to comment on the report. But state officials said there were interesting trends in the statewide numbers.
Although the average score in Kansas fell by a tenth of a point, state officials noted that the number of students meeting ACT's "college readiness" benchmarks for English, reading, math and science grew in 2013.
According to ACT, that's the score that indicates a student has at least a 50 percent chance of earning a B or better in freshman-level college courses, or a 75 percent chance of earning at least a C.
The Kansas State Department of Education said 30 percent of Kansas students who took the test in 2013 met all four benchmarks in 2013, up from 29 percent the year before. Meanwhile, 78 percent of Kansas students met at least one of the benchmarks, while 22 percent failed to meet any of them.
That was better than the national average of just 26 percent who met all the benchmarks, while 69 percent demonstrated college readiness in at least one core subject. The other 31 percent failed to meet any of the benchmarks.
Lawrence district officials did not provide data about the number of students who met the college readiness benchmarks.
State officials said some of the change in college readiness scores over the last year was due, at least in part, to the fact that ACT adjusted those benchmarks in 2013. The benchmark was raised by one point for reading, which resulted in a large drop in the number of Kansas students meeting the new mark.
Meanwhile the science benchmark was lowered by one point, resulting in a sharp increase, to 42 percent, in the number of students meeting that college readiness standard.
Core curriculum important
State officials said the scores confirm the importance of students taking core coursework in high school: four years of English and three years each of math, science and social studies.
"Statistics show that students who complete core coursework consistently score higher on all areas of the ACT exam than students who do not complete core coursework," the department said in a statement released Tuesday.
In Kansas, the department said, students who completed the core curriculum or more in high school scored 3.5 points higher than those who did not, and 0.8 points higher than the statewide average.