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JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's statewide average ACT score improved this year compared to last year.

In 2016, the state's composite score dropped to 20.2 - the worst average in the most recent five years of testing.

This year, however, Missouri reached a compound score of 20.4, which included improvements in all four subjects.

“The increases in Missouri’s results are a direct reflection of the focus on excellence our students and teachers bring to the classroom every day,” Margie Vandeven, Commissioner of Education, said in a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education statement. “We are proud of the gains they have made, but there is still much work to be done if we are to ensure that all students succeed.”

Despite the improvement, this year's scores are still lower than they were in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Sarah Potter, Communications Coordinator for DESE, said she has higher expectations moving forward.

"Teachers are still working hard to make sure that they're doing more research-based instruction - that the students are doing more hands-on learning," she said. "So we think as long as teachers are taking care of the good instruction and make sure students are learning, then the scores are going to take care of themselves.”

Potter said it's important to recognize that when comparing Missouri to national averages, only 18 states carry out census testing. This means all students take the ACT across an entire state, rather than just a percentage of students.

"It’s more accurate to compare Missouri to other states that are doing the census testing," Potter said. "So when you look at those 18 states that are fully testing their students, Missouri comes out fourth. I think that’s an amazing achievement for the state, and everyone should be really proud of that.”

As for Columbia Public Schools, the district's scores were higher than the state averages. CPS' composite score was 21.5 for 2017.