ACT Scores Hit 30-Year Low

According to the agency responsible for administering the ACT, student performance on the test has attained a disturbing level not seen in more than 30 years. At the same time, however, some educational institutions have done away with tests altogether.

The ACT found that this year, 40% of graduating seniors fulfilled “none of the college readiness metrics,” with 70% of students falling short in mathematics.

The performance of high school students has been dropping for the past six years. There were an estimated 1.4 million test takers this year, up from 1.2 million in 2022, and the average composite score went down by 0.3 points.

As reported by ACT, math scores fell by 0.3 points, English by 0.4 points, reading by 0.3 points, and science by 0.3 points between 2022 and 2023.

Compared to the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, which represent the minimal levels necessary for students to have a “high probability” of succeeding in a college-level course, the average scores in mathematics, reading, and science were below those benchmarks.

While the percentage of students who met all four standards decreased from 22.1% in 2022 to 20.8% in 2023, the percentage of students who met none of the standards climbed from 41.6% in 2022 to 43.3% in 2023, the report found.

Despite rising GPAs and students’ reports of feeling prepared for college success, ACT CEO Janet Godwin said they also continue to see a surge in the percentage of seniors leaving high school without fulfilling college readiness goals. She said the unfortunate reality is that they are not doing enough to guarantee that high school graduates are prepared for life after high school. Policymakers need to commit to fixing these issues over the long term. This is not just the responsibility of educators; it is an urgent matter of national importance, she warned.

The class of 2023 was in their first year of high school when COVID-related government shutdowns disrupted their education by closing schools for many weeks.
As test scores continue to fall, some schools are doing away with the requirement to take them to gain admission. Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, New York University, Princeton University, Stanford University, and Yale University all no longer require it for the 2021-2022 application year.

Columbia University made headlines in March when it became the first Ivy League institution to announce it will no longer require applicants to submit standardized test scores. In April, it was announced that entrance to New York State University would no longer be contingent upon the results of standardized tests.