With All Students Now Tested, Wisconsin’s ACT Scores Dip Below National Average

testingIn standardized testing, it is often the case that scores go down when participation rises.

That is true in Wisconsin, where a noticeable drop in Wisconsin’s average score was expected this year, as for the first time 100 percent of Wisconsin’s graduating seniors took the test, including many who likely do not expect to be heading to a college or university. Last year, when the ACT was taken voluntarily by those most interested in attending college, 73 percent of graduating seniors took the test.

The average composite score on the ACT college entrance exam for Wisconsin’s 2016 class of graduating high school seniors dropped from 22.2 to 20.5, according to a report released today by ACT.  Wisconsin’s 2016 scores dipped slightly below the national average of 20.8, which was also slightly lower than last year.

In part, Wisconsin’s lower results reflect a 42 percent increase in participation in ACT testing from 2015, the result of a 2015 change in state law mandating that all Wisconsin public school juniors take the ACT test as a required statewide assessment.  Wisconsin is among seven states that have recently required all students to take the ACT. 2016 marks the first year those results have been included in reporting scores for graduating seniors.

It is worth noting that Wisconsin’s composite average score ranked fourth in the nation among the 18 states that administer the college admissions exam to all public school graduates.  When making comparisons, it should also be noted that Wisconsin requires all high school juniors to take the ACT, while in many states the ACT is given primarily to high school seniors.

The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. According to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the ACT had predicted a 1.3 to 1.8 score decline for the seven additional states that funded ACT testing for all 11th-graders in 2015 as part of their statewide assessments.

This year’s results include the scores of 66,564 public and private school students in Wisconsin who took the ACT during their sophomore, junior, or senior year of high school, up from 46,738 students from the 2015 graduating class who took the test.

According to ACT, nearly 2.1 million of this year’s graduating seniors took the ACT, the nation’s most widely used admission test, an all-time high. Test takers amounted to about 64 percent of the nation’s Class of 2016. An estimated 59 percent took the test in the previous class.

Statistics released Wednesday show a slight decline in average scores nationally:

  • The national average composite score was 20.8, out of a maximum 36. That was down from 21.0 in 2015.
  • Minnesota’s average scores also slipped after it also required juniors to take the test as part of statewide testing. This year’s average score of 21.1 was slightly above the national average of 20.8 but slipped from 22.7 in 2015, when only 78 percent of students took the ACT. (Minnesota leads the 18 states where all 2016 high school graduates were tested.)
  • Average scores for Illinois’ seniors were 20.8, right at the national average and up one-tenth of a point from 2015. The ACT was optional for Illinois’ public school students in 2015, although it was provided free of charge for high school juniors by the Illinois State Board of Education. As a result, most 2016 Illinois graduating seniors took the test as juniors.
  • The lowest average score was 17.7 in Nevada, where the participation rate was described as 100 percent. Nevada’s average 2015 score was 21.0; however, its participation rate in that year was far lower, 40 percent.)

Read More: DPI News Release; La Crosse Tribune Story; Racine Journal Times (AP) coverage