Minnesota ACT scores continue to drop

Last fall I wrote about how average English, math, and composite American College Test (ACT) scores among Minnesota’s high school graduating class of 2022 were the lowest they had been in at least a decade.

Source: ACT

The release of the class of 2023’s scores reveals new lows for English, math, composite, and now science too, with all tested subjects down compared to 2022.

For the 68 percent of 2023 Minnesota high school graduates who took the exam, the average composite score came in at 20.8, which is a decline of 0.2 from the 2022 average and the lowest composite score in at least a decade.

Just over a quarter (27 percent) of Minnesota exam-takers met all four college-readiness benchmarks in math, reading, English, and science, also the lowest percentage in at least a decade. According to ACT, the nonprofit organization that administers the exam, the college readiness benchmarks “demonstrate the minimum ACT scores required for students to have a higher probability of success in credit-bearing first-year college courses.”

Minnesota state law does not require students to take a college entrance exam as a high school graduation requirement, but it does “encourage” it.

The graduating class of 2023 experienced learning disruptions — exacerbated by school closure policy decisions — across their entire high school journey. Graduation rates in the state have ticked up, despite reading and math proficiency declines.

“This is the sixth consecutive year of [ACT] declines in average [U.S.] scores, with average scores declining in every academic subject,” ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in a press release. “We are also continuing to see a rise in the number of seniors leaving high school without meeting any of the college readiness benchmarks, even as student GPAs continue to rise and students report that they feel prepared to be successful in college.”

The hard truth is that we are not doing enough to ensure that graduates are truly ready for postsecondary success in college and career. 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.

Opposition to and criticism of the ACT and other standardized assessments have led colleges and universities to adopt test-optional admissions policies, which, according to an article by Jill Barshay with The Hechinger Report, have made it harder for them to be fair in choosing students.