WILLMAR -- Students at Willmar Senior High have scored their highest composite ACT score since the school opened 16 years ago.
The 159 students who took the test had a composite score of 22.5 on the college entrance exam. A top score is 36.
"We don't lead the nation or anything like that, but it's great progress for us," Principal Rob Anderson said in a recent interview.
Anderson said the Willmar composite score is a bit lower than the state average of 22.9 but significantly higher than the national average composite score of 21.
Minnesota's scores led the nation for the sixth straight year among states where more than half the students take the ACT. "Some states have higher scores, but they only test 15 or 16 percent of their kids," Anderson said.
Iowa had the second-highest scores with a composite score of 22.2. Nebraska and Wisconsin tied for third at 22.1.
Willmar typically has 60 percent or more of its students take the ACT each year, Anderson said.
The vast majority of the students who took the test in the last school year were white, Anderson said.
The group of minority students who took the test was small -- 17 students in four different ethnic groups, he said, so it's difficult to draw conclusions on such a small group.
Most students who take the test do so because they plan to go to a four-year college, Anderson said. The test isn't needed for students who seek admission to a community college, but "a lot of them take it so they've got their bases covered," he added.
The Associated Press reported earlier this month that the national average dropped from 21.1 to 21.0, but test results indicated that more students' scores indicate that they are ready for college.
The test sets benchmarks in English, reading, math and science. About one-quarter of the students who took the test met or surpassed the benchmarks.
Students who do not meet the benchmarks are considered likely to need remedial help in at least one subject in college.