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ACT Scores Fall to Lowest Level in 30 years...and It's Not Hard to Guess Why

AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File

As Americans grapple with learning loss caused by forced remote learning and extended school lockdowns in recent years, the cost to those at the end of their pre-college education journey is becoming more clear on a national scale thanks to fresh data on the average scores earned on the 2022 standardized ACT exams taken to determine student readiness for college. 


According to ACT, the nationwide average score for student graduating high school in 2022 was just 19.8, the lowest composite score average in more than 30 years making 2022 the first year since 1991 that the national average score was below 20.

The non-profit ACT organization said that scores "continued to decline during the pandemic" and those decreases in testing scores "returned student achievement to levels last observed in the early 1990s." According to ACT CEO Janet Godwin, "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." Still, Godwin noted that "the magnitude of the declines this year is particularly alarming" with "rapidly growing numbers of senior leaving high school without meeting the college-readiness benchmark in any of the subjects were measure." 

What changed in the last two years that accelerated the downward trajectory of student achievement and college-readiness? It's fairly obvious.


While average composite scores are decreasing, ACT also reported that the proportion of high school seniors meeting none — zero — of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks rose. 

Those metrics predict that meeting the ACT's benchmark gives a student a 50 percent chance of getting a B or better in classes on the subject and a 75 percent chance of getting a C or better. 

For the class of 2022, just 22 percent  of students met all four of ACT's readiness benchmarks while 42 percent of students met none of the benchmarks.

According to ACT, scores between 2021 and 2022 saw the English score average drop 0.6 points, math average fall 0.6 points, reading average decline 0.5 points, and science down 0.5 points. 

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