ACT Reports Declining Scores That Are “particularly alarming”
On October 12, 2022, ACT reported that the national average composite score on the ACT for the high school class of 2022 was 19.8, the lowest average score in more than three decades. “This is the fifth consecutive year of declines in average scores, a worrisome trend that began long before the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has persisted,” said ACT CEO Janet Godwin. “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.”
The ACT has identified readiness benchmarks for seniors which help determine which students will have a higher probability of success in credit-bearing first-year college courses. Their research shows that students who meet the benchmark have a 50% chance of earning a B or better and approximately a 75% chance of earning a C or better in their college course or courses.
What they found was that among the 2022 graduating class, only 22% of students met all four ACT benchmarks, while 42% of students met none of these benchmarks.
Number of Students Taking the ACT is Increasing
Since 2015, when only 27% of graduates took the ACT as part of a statewide or districtwide administration, the number of students taking the test has increased. For the 2022 graduating class, 60% of students took the test at least once.
NCES Assessment Results
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) conducted a special administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term trend (LTT) test this year, which is often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card. They tested students age 9 in both reading and mathematics to examine student achievement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Average scores for students in 2022 declined by 5 points in reading and 7 points in mathematics as compared to 2020. The NAEP said “This is the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first ever score decline in mathematics.” These lower scores in mathematics were demonstrated in students from city, suburban, town, and rural school districts and from students in the lower (25th percentile) and higher (75th percentile) performance groups. In reading, scores declined for most groups compared to 2020, with some exceptions.
Higher Performers Had Greater Access to Remote Resources
All students who took the LTT test were asked if they had attended school from home or somewhere else outside of school for any portion of the 2020-21 school year. Seventy percent indicated that they had done some remote learning. Among these students, the ones with higher scores tended to be the ones with greater access to a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet all the time; had a quiet place to work available some of the time; and had a teacher available to help them with mathematics or reading every day or almost every day.
Higher Performers Overall More Confident in Their Remote Learning Abilities
When asked if they could recognize when they don’t understand something they’re learning remotely, 67% of the higher performing students said they could. When asked if they could ask for help when they need it while learning remotely, 82% of the higher performing students said yes. And when asked if they could find learning resources online, 60% of the higher performing students said yes.
What Does All This Mean?
Regardless of the contributing factors that may result in students’ declining test scores, parents are concerned about the quality of their child’s education, and how to help them achieve their best results. Parents are exploring alternative options to the traditional public school education as well as looking for ways to help their students improve academic performance. Charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning, and homeschooling are all experiencing increased levels of participation. Private tutoring has been shown to “yield consistent and substantial positive impacts on learning outcomes.”
The overall goal of education is to prepare students to be successful in life after school. Even students who are not planning to go on to college need to be equipped for success, whichever path they decide to follow. Helping your student perform better in school isn’t just so their grades can improve. It’s a way to make sure they get the most out of their education so they can move ahead with confidence.
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