Louisiana students this year improved by a fraction on a test of college readiness, according to a national report that will be issued on Wednesday.

The state’s average composite score for 2011 on the ACT is 20.2, up from 20.1 last year.

The national average is 21.1, up from 21.0 last year.

A perfect score is 36.

Colleges use the results for admissions and scholarships.

District results are expected to be released Wednesday by the state Department of Education.

Gains and losses are usually measured in tenths of a point.

“The fact that we grew a tenth of a point doesn’t sound great,” said Penny Dastugue, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“But it takes a lot to get that tenth of a point,” Dastugue said. “And we paced the nation with its growth.”

But she added, “It’s still far too low.”

Louisiana’s composite score is 41st in the nation.

The top score is Massachusetts at 24.2.

The lowest in the nation is Mississippi at 18.7.

A total of 35,870 public and private high school students took the test earlier this year, which is essentially 100 percent of Louisiana’s graduating class, according to the report.

Only eight states reached that level.

Students in other parts of the country prefer the SAT.

Which exam they take often depends on where they live and what kind of college they plan to attend.

Louisiana students fared best in English, where the average composite score is 20.4.

The lowest score is in math at 19.7.

The other two subjects tested are reading and science.

Nationally, 25 percent of high school graduates who took the test met or exceeded four key benchmarks that show they are ready for college work, ACT officials said.

That is up from 24 percent last year.

The benchmarks apply to college-level English composition, algebra, social science and biology.

“American students are making incremental progress toward being ready to complete college-level work, but there’s still significant work to be done,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a prepared statement.