Dumb and Getting Dumber

Two years after the COVID school lockdowns, the collapse in K-12 learning still has significant downward momentum. Of the 1.4 million high school seniors who took the ACT college preparedness test in 2023, the percentage meeting all four benchmarks — English, math, reading, and science — was 20.8% — down 1.3 percentage points from the previous year, according to ACT.

That’s not 21% of all high school graduates, it’s 21% of students who took the exam, which varied from 2% in Maine to 100% in Alabama.

“This is the sixth consecutive year of declines in average scores, with average scores declining in every academic subject,” ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in a press release. “We are also continuing to see a rise in the number of seniors leaving high school without meeting any of the college readiness benchmarks, even as student GPAs continue to rise and students report that they feel prepared to be successful in college.”

In Virginia, a mere 8% of high school graduates took the ACT exams, meaning only a highly self-selected group of college-bound students participated. Here is the percentage of Virginia students meeting ACT benchmarks of having “a high probability of success in credit-bearing first-year college courses”:

English — 83%
Math — 72%
Reading — 61%
Science  — 63%