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Ninety percent of Oklahoma ACT test-takers do not meet readiness benchmarks in all subjects

 A high school student at Tulsa Union Public Schools listens to a lecture on ancient cultures.
Beth Wallis
StateImpact Oklahoma
A high school student at Tulsa Union Public Schools listens to a lecture on ancient cultures.

The ACT exam is taken by high schoolers, often with the aim of scoring high enough to get into a college or university. But according to new data, ACT scores in Oklahoma have dropped to their lowest in the past 20 years.

In 2003, Oklahoma held an average composite score of 20.5 out of 36. In 2013, it had risen slightly to 20.8. The year before the pandemic, it slid down to 18.9. This year, it sits at 17.8.

Oklahoma made taking a college readiness exam mandatory for all students in 2017, though districts may choose to use the ACT or SAT.

ACT subject areas are English, math, reading and science. This year, Oklahomans scored an average score of 17 in English, 17.1 in math, 18.4 in reading and 18.1 in science. Ten years ago, all of those scores were at least above 20, with English, reading and science scores beating the national averages.

Though Oklahoma’s downward trend is steeper, scores have also steadily dropped nationwide. This year’s national average composite score is 19.5.

The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks also look bleak nationally, but especially in Oklahoma. These are the minimum scores the ACT organization says will give students a high probability of success during their first year of college. Only 10% of Oklahoma test-takers meet benchmarks in all four subject areas. The nationwide average is 21% — down from 47% ten years ago.

According to the data, the highest subject area for test-takers meeting their benchmarks was in English, at 42%. Thirty percent met reading benchmarks, 19% met science benchmarks, and 16% met math benchmarks.

The ACT organization released a statement Tuesday, saying nationwide, scores have declined for six consecutive years and dropped in every subject.

“The hard truth is that we are not doing enough to ensure that graduates are truly ready for postsecondary success in college and career. These systemic problems require sustained action and support at the policy level,” ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in the statement. “This is not up to teachers and principals alone — it is a shared national priority and imperative.”

View the data here:

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Beth Wallis is StateImpact Oklahoma's education reporter.
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