Readiness in math is trending downward among ACT-tested US high school graduates, falling to its lowest mark in 14 years, according to The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2018, ACT’s annual score report. The report, released today, is based on 2018 graduates around the country who took the ACT test.
The percentage of ACT-tested graduates who met or surpassed the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in math—suggesting they are ready to succeed in a first-year college algebra class—fell to its lowest level since 2004; 40% of 2018 graduates met the math benchmark, down from a high of 46% in 2012.
In addition, students’ average score on the ACT math test dropped to its lowest level in more than 20 years—down to 20.5 (on a scale of 1 to 36), continuing a slide from 21.1 in 2012 to 20.7 last year.
Student readiness in math was on an upswing from the early 2000s to 2012, but it has gradually declined since then.
The results are based on the more than 1.9 million 2018 graduates—55 percent of the national graduating class—who took the ACT test.
English Readiness Also Dropping
Readiness in English has also been trending down over the past several years, dropping from 64% in 2015 to 60% this year, the lowest level since the benchmarks were introduced.
Readiness levels in reading (46%) and science (36%) were both down one percentage point from last year but are showing no long-term trends either upward or downward. Science remains the subject area in which students are least likely to be prepared for college coursework.
Average ACT Composite Score Drops Back Down
The national average ACT composite score for the 2018 graduating class was 20.8, down from 21.0 last year but the same as in 2016.
Hispanic, African American Students Lag Behind
Hispanic and African American students continue to lag behind their white and Asian American counterparts in terms of college readiness. Asian Americans remain the best prepared group as a whole; their average composite score rose this year compared to last year, while scores for students in all other racial/ethnic groups went down slightly.
Underserved Learners Struggle
College readiness levels remain markedly low overall for underserved learners (low-income, minority, and/or first generation college students—who make up 43% of all ACT-tested graduates). Once again, fewer than a fourth of underserved graduates were well prepared for college coursework overall compared to slightly more than half of students who were not considered underserved.
STEM Readiness Down Slightly
Twenty percent of graduates met or surpassed the ACT STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Benchmark, which represents readiness for first-year courses typically required for a STEM major. The average national STEM score—a combination of the ACT math and science scores—was 20.9 in 2018, down from 21.1 in 2017.