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Average ACT scores for 2020 Alabama graduates at 5-year low

According to PARCA, the decline cuts across gender, economic and demographic groups, mirroring a national average score decline.


Average ACT scores of recent Alabama high school graduates declined to a five-year low, according to a recent study by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.

The scores for the graduating class of 2020 declined from to 18.6, down from 19.0 in 2015, on the 36-point scale. The average score for English, reading, math and science — the four subject areas for the ACT — likewise declined.

According to PARCA, the decline cuts across gender, economic and demographic groups, mirroring a national average score decline. ACT scores among economically disadvantaged students, non-economically disadvantaged students, and between males and females declined. Asian, white, Black and Hispanic students’ scores also declined in 2020, pointing to lingering disparities, according to PARCA.

Average ACT scores for students entering Alabama universities vary, from a composite score of 18 for freshmen at Alabama State and Alabama A&M, to 28 at Auburn and the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Only 16.3 percent of Alabama students scored at or above the benchmark in all four subjects in 2020, according to PARCA.

This data reflects a national composite and subject score decline, but the study warns against comparing Alabama’s average ACT score to the national score.

“Only half the nation’s high school graduates take the ACT, and the students who do are disproportionately likely to be headed to college,” wrote Tom Spencer, senior research associate at PARCA and author of the study. “In Alabama, all public high school students take the test. But for both Alabama and the nation, this was the third year in a row of decline. For both, 2017 was the high point over the past five years—Alabama at 19.1, the nation at 21.”

Parker suggests a comparison to other states where all public high students take the ACT.

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“Among those 15 states, average ACT scores range from 20.2 in Utah to 17.9 in Nevada. Alabama is tied with North Carolina for the No. 10 ranking among those 15 states,” Parker wrote.

John is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can contact him at [email protected] or via Twitter.

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