New: Oklahoma students not making the grade in math, science

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OKLAHOMA CITY- Testing officials released an annual report card showing how American high school graduates are scoring on the ACT.

The bad news is only one in three of this year's Oklahoma high school grads who took the exam met the benchmark in reading, English, math and science. That benchmark is the level needed to succeed in college without remedial courses.

A benchmark score is the minimum score needed on an ACT subject to indicate a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher, or a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding college courses.

ACT Test Benchmark Score:
English - 18
Mathematics - 22
Reading - 21
Science - 24

The good news in Oklahoma is how many students take the test in the first place, 76 percent, which is well above the national average.
Math ACT

Also, our students exceeded the national average in English; 66 percent compared with the average 64 percent. The four-hour test is scored on a scale of 0 to 36.

Oklahoma students test close to the national average with a 20.7 score. The national average is 21.1.

When it comes to science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM subjects, Oklahoma students are falling behind.

Only 37% of this year's graduates met the math benchmark, which is seven points lower than the national average.

Only 35% met the science benchmark, just under the national average. Experts say that's having a huge economic impact.

However, the Oklahoma ACT average score is well below admissions standards for OU and OSU. Oklahoma test takers scored lowest in math and science with less than a third of students meeting the benchmarks.

There are about 4,000 state jobs in those STEM areas that have to be filled by out-of-state or foreign workers.

"That group that went through the Sputnik moment or the space race, they're about to retire," Jeff Downs, Executive Director of STEM with the Oklahoma State Department of Education, said. "We need to replenish those ranks and that's what the industry is calling for."

To improve STEM test scores, the state has implemented a "Think Through" math program - an interactive digital learning program to help kids become ready for algebra by the eighth grade.

Downs said earlier introduction to science and math is the key to better grades. The average starting salary for college graduates in STEM jobs is more than $75,000.

That's about $20,000 more than non STEM starting salaries. The two highest ACT scores in the state came from seniors at the Oklahoma School for Math and Science and from Classen School of Advanced Studies.

MORE: How to improve your students' test scores.