College admissions test scores drop to 30-year low

"The magnitude of the declines is alarming .... We see an increasing number of students dropping out of high school," said Janet Godwin, ACT's chief executive officer.

The average ACT college entrance exam score of this year's high school graduates reached its lowest point in more than 30 years. The average score for 2022 was 19.8 out of 36, marking the first time since 1991 that the grade was below 20 and down from 20.3 for 2021, according to data released this week.

Magnitude of decline "alarming

Axios notes that a drop in grades is the latest indicator of the "detrimental effects of the pandemic" on students and points to the seriousness of graduates being ill-prepared to face college.

The report also revealed that 42% of students failed to meet any of the benchmarks in English, reading, science and math. benchmarks in the subjects of English, reading, science and mathematics. Compared to 38% of examinees in 2021 who did not meet the minimum indicators for the same subjects. This increase shows the poor preparation of students for university courses.

Janet Godwin, ACT CEO called this year's scores "alarming" and in turn, defended the tests as a college readiness measure:

The magnitude of the declines this year is particularly alarming. We see rapidly growing numbers of seniors leaving high school without meeting college-readiness benchmarks in any of the subjects we measure... Academic preparation is where we are seeing the decline.... Now more than ever, the past few years have shown us the importance of having high-quality data to help inform how we support students.

Inequalities in education

Rose Babington, ACT state director also noted that "systemic inequities in education" are evident in test scores:

The results offer a lens into systemic inequities in education, in place well before the pandemic shuttered schools and colleges temporarily waived testing requirements. For example, students without access to rigorous high school curriculum suffered more setbacks during pandemic disruptions. Those students are from rural areas, come from low-income families and are often students of color.

The number of students taking the ACT has dropped 30% since 2018 as graduates increasingly drop out of college and some colleges no longer require entrance exams. But participation fell 37% among black students, with only 154,000 taking the test this year.

Standardized tests like the ACT have faced growing criticism that they are unfair to minority and low-income students, as better-off students with access to advanced test preparation courses often perform better.