The graduating class of 2023 has continued a six-year decline in ACT scores, and all 50 states’ average composite score makes it a thirty-year low, according to new data released by the testing giant.
The average score for the class of 2023 was 19.5, three decimal points below last year. When broken down by individual subjects such as reading, science and math, student scores still fell below the benchmarks the ACT says students must reach to have a high probability of success in first-year college courses.
These findings reflect a recent report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress that shows decades-low scores in math and reading among 13-year-old students. In both instances, education leaders believe students’ transition to remote learning during the pandemic has caused the setback. The class of 2023 experienced the pandemic during the spring semester of their freshman year.
“I didn’t have a hands-on, in-person class, and the information wasn’t really there,” said Virginia-based Diego Fonseca, 19, a computer science major struggling to pass a calculus placement exam, according to AP News. “I really struggled when it came to higher-level algebra because I just didn’t know anything.”
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How low student test scores impact higher education
The swell of students falling behind in ACT scores may foreshadow students’ lack of preparation for the rigor of college courses. College students are increasingly placed in pre-college math courses as they find themselves struggling with basic fractions and exponents. One Temple University intermediate algebra class has seen its enrollment nearly double since the pandemic, AP reports.
In June, U.S. Education Department Secretary Miguel Cardona announced that schools have committed 60% of their American Rescue Plan money to recover students’ lost ground during the pandemic.
While standardized test scores may not be as critical for students looking to be admitted to college, ACT CEO Janet Godwin still believes in its value in gauging academic readiness. She believes the U.S. education system needs a deep reevaluation to combat the trend.
“The hard truth is that we are not doing enough to ensure that graduates are truly ready for postsecondary success in college and career,” Godwin said in a press statement. “These systemic problems require sustained action and support at the policy level. This is not up to teachers and principals alone—it is a shared national priority and imperative.”