Pandemic Side Effect? Kids Bombing College Admissions Tests at 'Particularly Alarming' Rate

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October 13, 2022

Average scores on the ACT college admissions test dropped to their lowest in 30 years, revealing more evidence of the pandemic's alarming impact on American education.

The average composite score for the class of 2022 was a 19.8 out of 36, according to a report released Wednesday, falling under 20 points for the first time since 1991. This year's graduates endured the effects of the pandemic for three of their four high school years.

These results fuel concerns that post-pandemic graduates are not prepared for college-level work. Of the ACT-tested graduates, 42 percent failed to meet any of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks (English, reading, math, science). Last year, 38 percent of students did not meet any of the benchmarks.

While ACT scores have been gradually falling in recent years, "the magnitude of the declines this year is particularly alarming," ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in a statement. "We see rapidly growing numbers of seniors leaving high school without meeting college-readiness benchmarks in any of the subjects we measure."

An increasing number of students are choosing to forgo ACT testing altogether. The number of students taking the ACT has fallen 30 percent since 2018. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more universities have made ACT and SAT testing optional for admissions. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing reports that 1,800 colleges no longer require these exams. Even some Ivy League schools, including Harvard, have temporarily made ACT/SAT testing optional because the pandemic limited students' access to testing sites.

"These systemic failures require sustained collective action and support for the academic recovery of high school students as an urgent national priority and imperative," Godwin said.