Oct 12, 2022 - Politics & Policy

ACT test scores fall to lowest levels since 1991

Students head to class after returning from summer break at Anaheim High School in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, August 10, 2022.

Students go to class at Anaheim High School in Anaheim, Calif., on Aug. 10. Photo: Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

The average ACT test score for students in the class of 2022 dropped to its lowest level in more than three decades, according to data out Wednesday.

Why it matters: The decline in scores is the latest indicator of the pandemic's detrimental effects on the nation's students — and underscores the extent to which graduating high school students are ill-prepared for college.

  • "The magnitude of the declines this year is particularly alarming, as we see rapidly growing numbers of seniors leaving high school without meeting the college-readiness benchmark in any of the subjects we measure," ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in a statement.

Driving the news: The national average composite score for graduating seniors in 2022 was 19.8 out of 36, the lowest average score since 1991 and down from 20.3 for graduating seniors in 2021.

  • In addition, 42% of students failed to meet any of the ACT's subject benchmarks in English, reading, science and math, which are the minimum test scores required for students to have a reasonable chance of success in typical first-year college courses, per ACT.

The big picture: ACT test scores have been on the decline for at least five years, Godwin said, adding that it is "a worrisome trend that began long before the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has persisted."

  • "These declines are not simply a byproduct of the pandemic. They are further evidence of longtime systemic failures that were exacerbated by the pandemic."
  • The number of students taking the ACT has declined 30% since 2018, AP reports.

Between the lines: Standardized testing has come under scrutiny, with critics arguing that such tests are biased in favor of affluent students and unfair to minority students, Axios reported.

Go deeper: Race and higher education in America

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