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PARCA: Average ACT scores, college readiness dropped for class of 2022

Average scores are down from a pre-pandemic high for the class of 2017.


Average ACT scores declined by almost a point for Alabama’s Class of 2022, with the percentage of college-ready students in every tested subject also seeing a drop, according to a recent study from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.

The study, which was released last week, showed that compared to the Class of 2021, the average composite score has dropped from roughly 18.6 in the previous year to 17.7 for this most recent class. Both average scores are down from a pre-pandemic high of approximately 19.2 for the Class of 2017, the study highlights.

“The 2022 drop was sharper than but parallel to a half-point decline in the national average ACT score,” writes Thomas Spencer, the study’s author. “ACT reports that the 2022 composite is the lowest national score in over three decades.”

The study also shows that 12.5 percent of seniors in the Class of 2022 received a score at or above the college-ready benchmark in all four subjects, which is the lowest score over the last seven years. By subject, 40 percent of students met or exceeded the benchmark in English, with 16.9 percent meeting the college-ready standard in mathematics, according to the study.

Broken down by demographic subgroup, white and Hispanic students experienced sharper declines on average than Black and Asian students, according to the study. Economically disadvantaged students are also less likely to receive a college-ready score as compared to their economically advantaged counterparts, the study shows.

“As with most standardized tests, score gaps exist between racial, ethnic, and economic groups,” Spencer writes. “On average, Blacks and Hispanics earn lower test scores, and a smaller proportion of test-takers in those groups reach the college-ready benchmark. Asians, on the other hand, outscore Whites.”

The lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruption of prime test preparation years are likely explanations for the drop in ACT scores for the Class of 2022. As a result of the pandemic, universities also dropped standardized admission test requirements for students looking to enroll.

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“While the Class of 2022 experienced a relatively normal senior year in 2021-2022, their sophomore and junior years, key ACT preparation and testing years, were disrupted,” Spencer writes. “In their sophomore year, in-person schooling ended abruptly in March 2020. Their junior year, which began in the fall of 2020, featured an uneven mix of remote and in-person learning. All Alabama juniors take the test in the spring, with some retesting into the senior year.”

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

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