College Admission Test Scores Drop to Lowest Level in 30 Years, Media Rushes to Blame COVID

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

Let's kick this one off with a fact, a narrative, and a few realities.

FACT: High school students' scores on the ACT college admissions test have dropped to their lowest level in more than three decades, revealing a shocking lack of student preparedness for college-level coursework, according to the nonprofit organization that administers the test.

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NARRATIVE: Many in the so-called "mainstream" media rushed to blame the decline in ACT scores on... wait for it... the COVID-19 pandemic.

REALITY: Given the hellbent drive in public school systems across America to lower educational expectations of students, with STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — minimum graduation requirements being lowered, or eliminated entirely, is it any wonder? 

You know — that whole insane "equity" thing, or as I prefer to call it, the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Yet, even the ACT (American College Testing) website puts heavy emphasis on the pandemic as the main culprit behind the steady decline in student college admission test scores.

U.S. High School Class of 2022 Graduating Class Data

Context matters for the graduating class of 2022. This cohort endured the effects of a global pandemic spanning across the three years of their education: sophomore, junior, and senior years

ACT puts forth this data, in addition to our extensive COVID-19 related research, to ensure that school systems and states can make informed decisions that will improve outcomes for their students and families. 

ACT uses a holistic view and our consistent and reliable historical information to provide greater context and visibility as educators make critical decisions for future cohorts of students.

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While from a "We told you so!" perspective, I'd be happy to blame COVID lockdowns for declining test scores, but to ignore the inexcusable efforts of teachers unions would be disingenuous at best. 

Here are a few highlights from the ACT data:

  • Approximately 1.3 million students in the U.S. high school graduating class of 2022 took the ACT test, an estimated 36 percent of graduates nationwide.
  • The national average Composite score for the graduating class of 2022 is 19.8, down from 20.3 for the graduating class of 2021, the lowest average score since 1991.
  • Thirty-five percent of the ACT-tested graduating class took the ACT more than once, as compared to 32% for the 2021 cohort.
  • Thirty-two percent of ACT-tested graduates in the class of 2022 met at least three out of four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks (English, reading, math, and science), while, 42% of students met none of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks and 22% met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks.

While ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in a press release that the decline can’t be blamed exclusively on learning disruptions from online learning and missed classes when schools were locked down during the pandemic, she also claimed that “longtime systemic failures” were “exacerbated by the pandemic.”

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COVID aside, Godwin put the decline into proper perspective:

Then as we see rapidly growing numbers of seniors leaving high school without meeting the college-readiness benchmark in any of the subjects we measure.

Here's a novel idea: Rather than fixing blame, fix America's public education system.

The Bottom Line

One can only surmise — this one, anyway — that as the left continues to rally under the "equity" banner, not only will college admission scores continue to decline (assuming the tests aren't eliminated altogether) but I'll also go out on a safe limb and predict that higher education in America will fall even further behind that of China, our number-one competitor on the world stage.

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