The country's 2022 graduating high school class produced the lowest average ACT score in more than 30 years, according to the organization that administers the standardized college readiness exam.
The national average ACT composite score for the class of 2022 was 19.8, the first sub-20.0 score since 1991, ACT said in a release.
The four ACT test sections — English, math, reading, and science — individually are scored on a scale of 1 to 36, and a composite score is the average.
"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," ACT CEO Janet Godwin said.
"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."
Godwin added that the plummeting ACT scores are not solely results of the pandemic.
"They are further evidence of longtime systemic failures that were exacerbated by the pandemic," she said. "A return to the pre-pandemic status quo would be insufficient and a disservice to students and educators.
"These systemic failures require sustained collective action and support for the academic recovery of high school students as an urgent national priority and imperative."
The proportion of high school seniors meeting none of the ACT college readiness benchmarks — the minimum scores required for students to have a higher probability of success in college — continue to rise.
The ACT has benchmarks for the four sections. Among the 2022 graduating class, 22% of students met all four benchmarks, while 42% of students met none of the benchmarks.
The percentage of students meeting all four benchmarks dropped from 25% in 2021, and the percentage of students meeting no benchmarks increased from 38%.
ACT reported year-over-year declines in all subjects:
- English scores, from 19.6 to 19.0.
- Math scores, from 19.9 to 19.3.
- Reading scores, from 20.9 to 20.4.
- Science scores, from 20.4 to 19.9.
The College Board, another nonprofit organization that administers standardized tests, last month noted a slight decline in scores for the SAT, which is widely used for college admissions in the U.S.
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