By Kristine Galloway
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE — National and state ACT scores are down for the Class of 2018.
The national average composite score earned by the Class of 2018 was 20.8, down from the 21 earned by the Class of 2017. A composite score is the average of scores earned in the four core areas – English, math, reading and science.
Kari Eakins, communications director for the Wyoming Department of Education, said the 20 earned by Wyoming’s Class of 2018 is down from the 20.2 earned in 2017.
In addition to a lower average composite score, national scores in all four areas decreased for the Class of 2018.
Science was the lowest obtained benchmark nationally. Just 36 percent of tested students attained the benchmark score, which is a 23.
The highest number of students attained the benchmark score in English. Sixty percent of tested students scored at least an 18, but the report provided by ACT states that even the English scores are decreasing.
Overall, only 38 percent of tested students nationwide earned benchmark scores or higher in at least three of the four core areas, according the ACT report. Almost as many of the students – 35 percent – met no benchmarks at all.
“ACT score data over the years have consistently shown that educational outcomes among U.S. high school graduates – in the form of academic readiness for college and career – are stagnant, and this year’s results suggest they may even be going downhill,” the report states.
“Policymakers and educators must take strong, swift actions to reverse this course.”
According to the ACT report, fewer than 25 percent of students in underserved populations demonstrated readiness for college or career. Those populations are: low-income, minority races and first generation college students.
The report called scores among those populations “dismal.” About 81 percent of students who fall into all three underserved populations met one or fewer benchmarks.
Eakins said underserved populations in Wyoming generally perform lower, as well.
Just 2 percent of students nationally who fell into all three underserved populations met the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) benchmark, according to the report.
Overall, only 20 percent of students who took the ACT met the STEM benchmark, though 45 percent expressed interest in a STEM major or career.
Wyoming is one of 19 states in which all juniors are required to take the ACT. Wyoming’s Class of 2018 earned an average composite of 20, which is the sixth highest score obtained among the 19 states. Students in Missouri and Montana also earned a 20.
Wisconsin – with a 20.5 – earned the highest average composite score among states that require the ACT. Nevada earned the lowest score with 17.7. Nevada’s score also is the lowest earned among all 50 states.
The highest average composite score earned among all the states is the 25.6 earned by the Class of 2018 in Connecticut. However, only 26 percent of the graduates took the ACT in Connecticut.
Ed Colby, senior director of media and public relations for the ACT, said in an email that average scores often are lower in states, like Wyoming, that require all students to take the ACT.
“That’s because the results include students from a much broader range of academic preparation; that is, they include students who weren’t preparing to go to college as well as those who were,” he explained in an email.
The good news from the ACT report is 76 percent of tested students said they wanted to attain some sort of post-secondary education, including 38 percent who hope to earn a bachelor’s degree and 32 percent who hope to earn a graduate degree.
However, according to the report, 82 percent of the Class of 2017 said they’d like to go to college and only 66 percent enrolled.
“ACT research shows most students aspire to a post-high school credential, which can be facilitated through educational planning, monitoring and interventions,” the report states.
“These efforts must begin early, be aligned with their aspirations and continue throughout their educational careers.”
According to the ACT report, “ACT has consistently found that students who take the recommended core curriculum are more likely to be ready for college or career than those who do not.”
That core curriculum involves four years of English language arts, and three years each of social studies, science and math. Those recommendations match the high school graduation requirements in Wyoming.
Eakins said this readiness is why the Wyoming Department of Education places an emphasis on the state’s Hathaway Success Curriculum.
“If they complete the Hathaway Success Curriculum, it should be more than just getting them scholarship money. It should actually be helping them get ready for college,” she said.
Eakins added that the department views the ACT as an important test for individuals and said officials aren’t reading too much into the results because the test no longer is used for accountability purposes in the state.
But, she said ACT scores can open a lot of doors for students. “We always want to make sure we’re doing whatever we can to help students prepare for whatever their next step is,” Eakins said.