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Alabama is stagnant while the nation sees downturn in ACT scores


MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama’s performance on the most recent round of ACT testing follows the same trend as the rest of the nation with stagnant progress and needed improvement in reading, math and science. This, according to The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2018, ACT’s annual score report, which was released today.

With an average composite ACT score of 19.1, Alabama lags slightly behind the national average ACT composite score of 20.8. However, Alabama is in its fifth year of testing ALL 11th graders – a move that traditionally brings scores down because of broader amounts of test-takers. In 2014, when only 80 percent of Alabama 11th graders took the ACT, Alabama received an average composite score of 20.6.

In 2015, the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) took on the responsibility of providing every Alabama high school junior with the opportunity to take the ACT free, at least once annually. In the 2018 graduating class, all 58,177 graduates took the ACT. Alabama’s 2018 graduating class’s average English score was 18.9, identical to 2017’s 18.9 average. Alabama’s 2018 math average was 18.3 compared to 18.4 in 2017.

Alabama’s 2018 reading average was 19.6 compared to 19.7 in 2017. Alabama’s 2018 science score was 19.0 compared to 19.4 in 2017. Overall, 25 percent of Alabama graduates met three or four ACT college readiness benchmarks. That was the same as in 2017, and compares to 38 percent nationally.

Nationally, readiness in math fell to its lowest mark in 14 years in 2018 among ACT-tested high school graduates. Last year, 40 percent of graduates met the math benchmark – down from 46 percent in 2012. Unfortunately, English readiness rates are trending down nationally, as well, with 60 percent being college ready in English this year, compared to 64 percent in 2014.

Still, despite the fact that scores are on a downward trend nationally, State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Eric Mackey, said he feels confident that changes currently being made to Alabama’s math and science course of studies, will reap benefits over time.

Mackey said the attention being paid to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects and career options will help bring ACT STEM scores up, as well. In 2018, the state’s STEM score was 19.1, compared to 18.9 in 2017. Mackey said a complete review of the Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) will result in much needed expansions. The state’s math course of study, which is now being developed, will align with the state’s new math assessment and better prepare students for the ACT.

Also, the data illustrates that the more the ACT is taken, the better the results.

In Alabama, 55.5 percent of 2018 graduates took the ACT more than once and garnered an average composite score of 21.4. This, compared to 55.7 percent of those who only took the ACT once, with an average score of 16.2.

Although the ALSDE pays for every 11th grader to take the test once, there are numerous fee waiver opportunities available for students to take the exam additional times without incurring any fees. This is an opportunity not taken full advantage of, as Alabama has 4,486 students who did not utilize the opportunity to test for free. This is not unique to Alabama, as nationally more than 152,000 (28.1 percent) of students did not take advantage.

On a positive note, the aspirations of Alabama students are high. About 85 percent of Alabama’s graduates say they aspire to go on to postsecondary education. A total of 56 percent actually attended. If barriers are removed and students who aspire to attend do, more than 19,000 additional Alabama graduates will enroll in some form of postsecondary education.

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