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Texas ACT Scores Drop as More Students Take the College Admissions Exam

In Texas, 26 percent of graduating seniors met the so-called “benchmark score” across all four subjects.

Thousands of Texas high school seniors are officially moving onto college this month. But this year’s freshmen might struggle more than last year’s freshmen class.

That prediction comes from the latest test scores from the most popular college entrance exam, the ACT.

In Texas, 26 percent of graduating seniors met the so-called “benchmark score” across all four subjects: English, math, reading and science. That means they have a good chance of getting a B or C in that subject in college.

ACT officials blamed the drop in scores to a record number of students taking the exam.

“This year’s ACT-tested class is more representative of the student population than any we’ve ever had,” said ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda in a statement.

“We have likely added many more underrepresented students who may not have been preparing to go to college. In a situation such as this, it’s not at all surprising that overall achievement levels went down. Research clearly shows that scores initially decrease when states adopt the ACT for all students, but access and opportunities increase.”

Bob Schaeffer with the advocacy group FairTest said that it’s more evidence that there’s too much focus on testing.

“Kids who are not even on the college track are taking the test as well. And that both adds to the number of test-takers and lowers the average score,” Schaeffer said.

What’s more, the gap grew between students from low-income homes and those from more affluent families making $80,000 or more a year. Schaeffer said that reflects the difference in opportunity for those kids, not their ability.

“Kids whose parents have the means buy them test prep, get them special summer programs, send them to the best schools, and all of those show up in test scores, furthering the advantages that those children already have — since before they were born,” he said.

Schaeffer contends that high school grades and rankings better predict how students will do in college. 

His group tracks how many colleges don’t require admissions exams or have flexible policies on tests. More than 75 colleges have joined that tally in the last three years.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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