While still low nationally, the average composite score in Louisiana for a test of college readiness rose in 2015, officials said Thursday.

The ACT exam shows how public and private high school students fared on questions about English, math, reading and science.

The state’s average composite score is 19.4, up from 19.2 last year.

A perfect score is 36.

Since 2005, the state’s average composite score has increased by more than 0.2 point only once.

“It is definitely a significant difference,” Ed Colby, director of public relations for ACT in Iowa City, Iowa, said of this year’s gain.

Last year, the national average was 21.0, and Louisiana ranked ahead of only Mississippi, North Carolina and Hawaii.

This year’s national average will be released on Aug. 26.

“It will be relatively low, but you will see great gains relative to other states,” state Superintendent of Education John White told reporters.

White said the results include positive signs, with nearly 1,000 more seniors — about 24,600 — scoring at least 18.

That is the minimum score needed to attend college without having to take remedial classes.

White said that part of the results is more important than the statewide average composite. “That is opportunity in the hands of those young people,” he said.

White said it is also notable that the number of African-American students earning at least an 18 on the ACT has grown by 40 percent since 2012.

“I give all the credit to our superintendents, principals and our teachers,” he said.

The average composite score for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system is 18.8.

Others include Ascension, 20.6; Livingston, 20.5; Zachary, 20.7; Central, 21.1; Lafayette, 20.0; Orleans, 20.9; Recovery School District in New Orleans, 16.6; Recovery School District in Baton Rouge, 14.2, and West Baton Rouge, 19.4.

The St. Tammany Parish school system is tops in the state at 21.5.

White singled out the Baker School District, which had a composite score of 17.5 and a gain of 1.6 points — huge in ACT terms.

The results mean that 63 percent of the 2015 senior class in New Orleans — Orleans Parish and Recovery School districts — scored at least 17 on the ACT, the minimum needed for a TOPS Tech scholarship.

Last year’s statewide composite score of 19.2 was down from 19.5 the previous year and 20.3 the year before.

The initial drop was blamed on a 2012 change in state policy that requires all high school seniors to take the ACT, which is relatively rare nationally.

In an email message, Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, said the results represent a mixed picture.

Richard said gains in ACT scores “warrants accolades for our local school districts” but also said there is an overemphasis on test preparations in high school to the detriment of other subjects.

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