When high school juniors and seniors take aim at applying to colleges and universities this fall, one of the steps involved is taking a test.

College entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT represent a sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for high school students who want to be college-bound. Some students take the tests multiple times to not only improve their chances of admission, but gain scholarships.

Only about 21 percent of Indiana students take the ACT, which is often preferred by colleges and universities outside Indiana and somewhat less controversial than the SAT. The good news to report on these scores is the 21.7 average for Indiana students, and that remains above the national average, though not an improvement over last year.

Still, this score average is good news for Indiana education. It shows that Indiana has sustained a level of performance over the last five years that is at or above the standard for the rest of the country.

What the score also may be saying is that students who are more likely to go out of state where education costs more are more likely to take the ACT than the SAT, but that is not clear. The SAT has long been the test of choice for Indiana high school students, most of whom will be educated at Indiana schools that do not require the ACT for admission. That means the ACT students are likely a more select group of students who are likely to be college-bound.

The question left unanswered by the ACT report is why the rest of the nation had its highest ACT gain in decades while Indiana did not gain at all in the overall average. It could be attributed to the fact that some students wait longer to take the exam or take the ACT as a “no pressure” test in addition to the SAT while Indiana students are taking it sometime during their junior year, but that also is not clear.

The bottom line is that college entrance exam scores indicate that the Indiana philosophy of public education is producing a product that can achieve higher levels of attainment, whether or not it is in Indiana. Educators, administrators, parents and especially students are getting their acts together, particularly when it comes to the ACT.

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