ACT Results Hold Steady, Persistent Achievement Gaps Remain

Results of the statewide administration of the ACT test to all high school juniors were made available this week and mark the second year 11th graders have been required to take the test for accountability purposes.  Across Wisconsin, scores came from 64,668 students statewide in 11th grade who took the ACT exam last spring.

Last year’s public school juniors posted an average composite score of 20.1, nearly the same as the previous year. Juniors who receive taxpayer funded vouchers to attend private high schools posted an average composite score of 18.2.

ACT results generate two sets of scores.  One relates to the ACT’s traditional 36-point scoring scale, the other translates into proficiently rankings, as traditionally used in reporting state assessment results.

Statewide average ACT scores in English language arts dipped to 18.6 this year compared to 19.3 last year, while average ACT math scores nudged slightly upward to 20.1 this year from 20.0 last year. A score of 20 is considered the benchmark for college and career readiness.  According to ACT test developers, students with a math score of 22 have at least 50 percent chance of getting a B or better in a college-level algebra class.

Statewide, about 41 percent of juniors tested last spring scored proficient or better in English compared with about 46 percent of those tested in the prior school year. Similarly, 35.6 percent of juniors tested last spring proficient or better in math, compared with nearly 37 percent of those tested in the 2014-15 school year.

As was the case with graduation rates and results from the Forward Exam (given the students in grades 3-8) also released this week, long-standing gaps between students of different racial and economic backgrounds were virtually unchanged. The gaps between black students’ and white students’ scores, and Hispanic students’ and white students’ scores were essentially the same as last year.  White students posted an average composite score of 20.9, while black students and Latino students posted average composite scores of 15.7 and 17.4, respectively.  Results reported last year found white students posted an average composite score of 20.8, while black students and Latino students posted average composite scores of 15.6 and 17.2, respectively.