ACT Scores Drop as More Take Test

Scott Jaschik:

Average ACT scores are down this year. ACT officials attribute the drop to the increasing percentage of high school seniors who have taken the test.

The average composite score for those who graduated from high school this year was 20.8, down 0.2 points from last year and representing a five-year low. (The highest possible score on each part of the ACT is 36, and the composite is an average of the four scores.) ACT data show that 64 percent of high school seniors in the Class of 2016 took the ACT this year, up from 59 percent last year and 52 percent in 2012. Generally, when a larger share of students take a test — in some cases encouraged by state requirements more than the students necessarily being college ready — scores go down. Score drops were the largest in states that have just started to require all students to take the ACT.

More from Melissa Korn and the Journal-Sentinel:

Nearly two-thirds of this year’s high school graduates took the ACT college entrance exam, and their scores suggest that many remain unprepared for the rigors of college-level coursework.

The testing company said Wednesday that only 38% of graduating seniors who took the exam hit the college-prepared benchmark in at least three of the four core subjects tested — reading, English, math and science — down from 40%. And 34% did not meet any of the benchmarks, which are designed to measure a strong readiness for college.

The four tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 36. The composite is the average of the four scores. The vast majority of colleges use the composite in admissions.

Of the ACT-tested high school graduates this year, 61% met the college-readiness benchmark of 18 points for English, which indicates a student is likely ready for a college composition course and would earn a “C’’ or better grade. In addition, 44% met the 22-point mark in reading, 41% met the 22-point threshold for math and 36% hit the 23-point benchmark in science. Thirty-four percent of 2016 grads nationally did not meet any of the four benchmarks.

Weeks called that number alarming, and an indication that those students are likely to struggle with first-year courses and end up in remedial classes that will delay degree completion and increase college costs.