Scores on the ACT college admissions test by this year’s high school graduates hit their lowest point in more than 30 years — the latest evidence of massive learning disruption during the pandemic.
The average of the class of 2022The composite score was 19.8 out of 36, marking the first time since 1991 that the average was below 20. Additionally, a growing number of high school students failed to meet any of the subject area benchmarks set by the ACT — presenting fall in readiness for college-level courses.
The test scores, released in a report Wednesday, show that 42 percent of graduating seniors who took the ACT test in the class of 2022 did not meet any of the benchmarks in English, reading, science and math, which are indicators of how well students are expected to do. in corresponding university courses.
In comparison, 38% of applicants in 2021 failed to meet any of the benchmarks.
“Academic readiness is where we see the decline,” said Rose Babington, senior director of state partnerships for ACT. “Every time we look at ACT test scores, we’re talking about skills and standards and predicting students to be successful and know the really important information to succeed and persist in their first year of college.”
ACT scores have been steadily declining in recent years. However, “the magnitude of the fall this year is particularly concerning,” ACT chief executive Janet Godwin said. “We are seeing a rapidly increasing number of seniors leaving high school without meeting the criteria for college readiness in any of the subjects we measure.”
The results offer a lens into systemic disparities in education that existed long before the pandemic closed schools and colleges to temporarily waive testing requirements. For example, students without access to a rigorous high school curriculum suffered more failures during pandemic disruptions, Babington said. These students are from rural areas, come from low-income families, and are often students of color.
The number of students taking the ACT has dropped by 30% since 2018 as more graduates drop out of college and some universities no longer require the test for admission. But participation dropped 37 percent among black students, with 154,000 taking the test this year.
Standardized tests like the ACT face growing concerns that they are unfair to minority and low-income students, as students with access to expensive prep or advanced courses often perform better.
Babington defended the test as a measure of college readiness. “Now more than ever, the past few years have shown us the importance of having high-quality data to help inform how we support students,” Babington said.
Test scores are now optional for freshman admission at many institutions. Some colleges, such as the University of California system, even opt for a test-blind policy, where scores are not considered even if they are submitted.
However, many students still sit for the exam, hoping to get an edge in admissions by submitting their scores. Tyrone Jordan, an elective college freshman at Arizona State University, said he took the ACT and SAT to outperform other students and help him get scholarships.
Jordan, who wants to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering, said he believes his rigorous program at Tempe Preparatory Academy prepared him for college and the standardized tests helped support him and his family financially.
“All he did for me was give me extra financial money,” Jordan said.
While Jordan always planned to take the test, many students struggle to access or choose not to take the test since their universities of choice no longer require it. In Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee and Wyoming, everyone is tested.