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State's 8th Graders Top National Average on ACT EXPLORE

January 26, 2001

West Virginia eighth graders’ scores on the 2000 ACT EXPLORE assessment were higher than the national average, according to information released this week by the West Virginia Department of Education. The ACT EXPLORE has been administered since 1996 and tests students in English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning.  

“These results indicate that our state’s students can compete with their peers across the nation on this important test that is considered a precursor to the ACT,” said State Superintendent Dr. David Stewart. “We’re especially proud of student achievement on the reading portion of the test, because we have provided teachers and administrators with needed resources and training in reading and writing across the curriculum to improve reading instruction.”  

West Virginia’s 2000 composite score of 13.9 is .2 above the national average of 13.7 on the ACT EXPLORE. The state’s students scored a 13.6 in reading on the ACT EXPLORE, compared to the national average of 13.1.  

Last year, West Virginia adopted a formal, comprehensive plan –- “Reading for All” -– to make a dramatic difference in the reading ability of both students and adults. The “Reading for All” plan consists of three phases: Learn to Read, for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade students; Read to Learn, fifth through 12th grade; and Read to Succeed, adult education. The program was made possible through a $5.99 million competitive grant through the U. S. Department of Education.  

On the other components of the ACT EXPLORE, West Virginia students scored a 14.0 in science, compared to the national average of 13.7; 13.7 in English, compared to 13.6 for the nation; and 13.9 in mathematics, compared to the national average of 14.0.  

Recognizing the need for improvement in mathematics, the West Virginia Department of Education applied for and received a five-year, $5.85 million competitive grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve mathematics teaching in middle schools.  

The initiative, called Project MERIT (Mathematics Education Reform Initiative for Teachers), is a collaborative effort among the West Virginia Department of Education, the State College and University Systems of West Virginia, the West Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the West Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition.  

“We anticipate that Project MERIT will result in significant gains in mathematics -– similar to the gains we’ve seen in science as a result of the $4.2 million National Science Foundation-supported initiative, Project CATS (Coordinated and Thematic Sciences),” Dr. Stewart noted. “We’re focusing on those areas needing improvement and will continue to supply resources and training to improve mathematics instruction and achievement.”  

The ACT EXPLORE assesses academic progress and helps students understand and begin to explore career options. It also assists them in developing a high school course work plan that prepares them to achieve their post-high school goals.

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