Oregon high school students bomb on the ACT

New ACT scores out Wednesday show that very few Oregon high school students took the ACT – and the average scores for those who did was far lower than in any of the 11 other states with which Oregon could fairly be compared.

Just 7% of students in Oregon’s class of 2022 took the college entrance exam, down from 20% in the class of 2021 who took the ACT.

That was a similar to the share of students, 5% to 9%, in 11 other states’ classes of 2022 who took the exam. The makers of the ACT say it is best to compare a state’s results only to states in which a similar share of students took the exam.

All 11 of those states’ students performed far better than Oregon’s in every subject tested – English, math, reading and science. The science score was particularly alarming, because it suggests the average Oregon graduate who took the ACT has less than a 50% chance of earning a B or better in a first-year college science class.

State schools chief Colt Gill told The Oregonian/OregonLive that “7% does not represent a large enough group to make definitive statement on overall student outcomes.” But, he said, results from statewide standardized tests taken by 55% to 60% of Oregon high school juniors last spring that showed 47% proficient in reading and writing and 20% proficient in math provided “a call to action for Oregon.”

He said educators widely expected the pandemic would set back learning in Oregon. He expressed confidence that big increases in state and federal spending on schools, including for mental health and wellbeing supports, summer learning and engaging, will help students catch back up.

That won’t help Oregon’s most recent graduates be more ready for college, however.

Members of Oregon’s class of 2022 were sophomores when schools were suddenly closed in March of 2020 and they spent the vast majority of their junior year attending school virtually, with far fewer hours of instruction than during a normal school year. Oregon reopened schools for most of its students to learn in-person full-time later than nearly all other states.

Nationally, scores on the ACT by this year’s high school graduates hit their lowest point in more than 30 years — the latest evidence of the enormity of learning disruption during the pandemic.

The class of 2022′s average ACT composite score was 19.8 out of 36, marking the first time since 1991 that the average score was below 20. What’s more, an increasing number of high school students failed to meet any of the subject-area benchmarks set by the ACT — showing a decline in preparedness for college-level coursework.

The test scores, made public in a report Wednesday, show 42% of ACT-tested graduates in the class of 2022 met none of the subject benchmarks in English, reading, science and math, which are indicators of how well students are expected to perform in corresponding college courses.

In comparison, 38% of test takers in 2021 failed to meet any of the benchmarks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

– Betsy Hammond; betsyhammond@oregonian.com; @chalkup

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