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WISCONSIN: ACT tests scores on decline since 2014; more students with "significant needs"

Feb 3, 2020, Wisconsin Public Radio: Report: Wisconsin ACT test scores have declined since 2014 The share of Wisconsin high school students deemed to be college-ready has declined since the 2014-2015 school year according to a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. While the state leads most others that test 100 percent of high school students, the data also shows significant gaps in college-readiness based on race and economic status. The Wisconsin Policy Forum analyzed ACT data collected by the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) since it began requiring all high school juniors to take the ACT. The report shows that the state's composite score — an average of all results — fell slightly last school year to 19.6 compared to the average of 19.8 from the 2017-2018 academic year. The state's composite ACT score during the 2014-2015 school year was 20. Those numbers are important because ACT scores are one of the factors colleges use when deciding which students to admit. For the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire an ACT composite score of 21-26 is recommended students. For UW-Madison an ACT score of 27-32 is recommended. The Policy Forum notes, however, that the slight decline in the state’s composite score "is masking potentially significant declines within each subject area that are relevant to students' 'college readiness.'" The ACT sets benchmarks to determine a student's ability to earn passing grades in English, math, reading and science. In each subject, less than 50 percent of students met the goal. The state's benchmark scores for reading increased slightly during the last school year over numbers from 2017-2018. The subject students struggled most with was math. Only 29.2 percent of all Wisconsin students met the ACT math benchmark. But when broken down by race the report noted that only 3.9 percent of black students met the college readiness benchmark for math while 35 percent of white students met the requirements. The largest gap between black and white students were noted in ACT reading scores. While 42 percent of white students met the reading benchmark, only 8.7 percent of black students achieved the same results. … When asked why the state’s overall composite ACT scores have dropped, Kammerud said poverty levels have increased and more students are arriving to school with additional needs. …

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