Minnesota is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the ACT college admission test for the eighth straight year.
While Massachusetts can claim the top composite score of 24.1 out of a possible 36, only 22 percent of the state's high school graduates took the ACT. In Minnesota, 74 percent of students took the test, with a composite score of 23.
In 2013, 39 percent of Minnesota seniors were rated proficient on the ACT, compared with 36 percent last year.
The ACT measures proficiency in English, math, reading and science to determine college readiness.
A racial gap remains in the state; however. A total of 61 percent of white students in Minnesota had minimum college readiness scores in at least three subjects, up from 59 percent in 2012, compared to 16 percent of black students.
FOX 9 News spoke with Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota's commissioner of education, spoke about what contributes to the state's consecutive years of success.
Q: We do well on the ACT relative to the rest of the nation. Why is that?
A: We have great teachers here and we have been working hard to align our standards to college and career. Our kids, when you raise the expectation, they actually achieve that expectation. So, it's good news for Minnesota today.
Q: Do you get a sense, or do teachers get a sense, that these students who want to go on to college are taking the ACT more seriously than in previous years because of the competition?
A: Kids know that this is the test that matters ... so that's why this past legislative session -- our legislators knew that kids do take college admission tests very, very seriously and they are highly motivated on them. So, they changed the test policy this year and we are actually going out for a new vendor to be able to look at how we can replace the test we have with these tests that are highly motivating to students.
Q: We had an achievement gap between white and minority students on the ACT in previous years. What do these latest results show there?
A: We still have those gaps and that is something that is very urgent for us to be able to resolve here ... So we still do see the differences; however, our students of color -- most of the sub-groups ... do better than their peers across the nation in terms of the national average.
Q: What is causing it, and why such a large discrepancy between those scores?
A: I think it's a mixture of a lot of factors, and we have growing poverty also and opportunity. So, this past legislative session, again, doing things like investing in preschool, investing in all-day kindergarten, and making sure kids are reading on grade level at third grade -- these are the kind of strategies that are going to help us close that achievement gap.
Q: Those are the strategies, but what's causing it? Do we know?
A: Well, it's very complex. You know, it could be some joblessness and parent and family situations and also making sure that we have the right opportunities, making sure kids start at the same starting line and have the foundation necessary to do well in school. So, it is a very complex issue and we want to address that and not make excuses, but make sure we put in place the right resources, the right strategies to eliminate this finally and once and for all.