Wisconsin students’ college readiness slips
ACT scores released last fall, show the share of Wisconsin high school juniors meeting college readiness benchmarks in 2018-19, was largely down or flat from the previous year, according to a Wisconsin Policy Forum analysis of data from the state Department of Public Instruction. The results cover nearly all subjects and almost all groups by race, ethnicity or economic status.
Combined with previous forum research showing the state’s working population shrinking and more occupations requiring higher levels of education, these findings indicate additional challenges ahead for the state’s workforce and economy.
Wisconsin’s state average composite score was 19.6 for 2018-19, which is a slight decline from the state average of 19.8 the year before, and 20 in 2014-15. This modest decrease, however, is masking potentially signifi cant declines within individual subject areas that are relevant to students’ “college readiness,” such as English, math and science.
The fourth ACT subject area, reading, was the only one for which Wisconsin’s share of students meeting college-readiness benchmarks increased.
Despite the stagnant scores, separate national data shows Wisconsin doing relatively well on the ACT, compared to other states that test all, or nearly all, students. Among the 19 states in which at least 98 percent of graduates took the ACT, Wisconsin graduates were second only to Minnesota, in their composite scores and college readiness in English, reading and science, and placed sixth highest for math.
The ACT, one of two major tests that colleges accept as part of students’ application, is the more popular choice in the Midwest, while the SAT is more popular on the coasts.
The forum’s analysis stems from the newly released second edition of the School DataTool, which includes a new measurement of Wisconsin students’ college readiness, based on their scores on the ACT.
This information is a service of the Wisconsin Policy Forum, the state’s leading resource for non-partisan state and local government research, and civic education.
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