Minnesota’s score rebounded some this year on the ACT college entrance exam, but not enough to regain its spot as No. 1 in the nation.

Results released Thursday show that this year’s graduating seniors scored almost half a point higher than last year’s seniors, earning an average composite score of 21.5 out of a possible 36. The ACT is the most popular college entrance exam in Minnesota.

For the second year in a row, Minnesota earned two distinctions: Just about all Minnesota graduating seniors took the exam, and the state posted the highest average composite score among the 17 states with 100 percent student participation. Its average composite score beat the nation’s 21 average.

The state ranked fifth overall among states where at least half of graduates took the test. But its top score among states with 100 percent participation made Minnesota tops to Gov. Mark Dayton.

“Ranking #1 in the nation confirms the overall quality of our state’s public education system,” said Dayton in a Thursday release.

Last year, the state’s participation in the test surged and the state’s scores tumbled. Until then Minnesota was long the nation’s highest scorer among states where at least half the graduates took the ACT. This year, Ohio took top honors.

The ACT tests students on their reading, English, mathematics and science skills as a measure of college readiness. In Minnesota, 31 percent of students met each of these benchmarks, compared with 27 percent nationwide.

The national picture is bleak for some categories of students, the ACT reported in a Thursday release.

Just 9 percent of graduates who would be their family’s first generation in college and were also minority and low-income showed a “strong readiness” for college, the ACT said.

“While it’s no surprise that underserved students fall behind their peers due to the inequities that exist, it is extremely alarming and concerning to see how large this achievement gap really is,” ACT CEO Marten Roorda said.

Overall, college readiness has been stable, the ACT reported, though one-third of test takers this year didn’t meet any testing benchmarks.

A bright spot in the national data: The number of Hispanic students taking the test has grown, and their average scores and readiness levels also rose slightly.

While scores increased for all student groups in Minnesota, students of color scored lower on average than their white counterparts, the governor’s office release said.

State Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius added in the release that there’s more work to be done “to make sure every single student in Minnesota is given the opportunity to reach their career and college aspirations.”