The 2020 graduating class has the lowest composite ACT score in 10 years, according to the nonprofit organization that administers the college readiness exam.
The national average composite score was 20.6, the ACT organization said, one tenth of a point lower than the 2019 national average of 20.7 and the lowest average score in the past 10 years.
Nebraska's average ACT composite score was 19.9, which is down one tenth of a point from last year. The highest possible score is 36. Iowa's average composite score was 21.1, down from 21.6.
In Nebraska, 24,973 graduates took the ACT, which gauges college readiness in reading, English, math and science.
ACT takes students' best scores for the comparison, regardless of when they took the test.
For the third year, almost 100% of Nebraska graduates took the ACT as part of student assessments. The state started offering the test for free to all high school juniors in 2017.
Fifteen states have 100% of their graduates take the ACT. Of those states, only Utah, 20.2, and Wisconsin, 20.1, scored better than Nebraska.
In Iowa, only 68% of graduates were tested.
States that test a high percentage of graduates tend to have lower averages as the scores include more students who do not plan to attend college.
Compared to others in the group of 15 states that test all graduates, Nebraska tied for the second-highest percentage of students meeting the English benchmark, the third-highest meeting the math benchmark, the fourth- highest meeting the science benchmark and tied for fifth- highest meeting the reading benchmark.
The ACT organization, which is based in Iowa City, Iowa, also reported that the average composite score for students from traditionally underserved racial and ethnic groups decreased from 18 to 17.7 between 2016 and 2020.
“By our measures, more than half of underserved students aren’t college ready,” said Janet Godwin, ACT's CEO. “That’s unacceptable, and we must do better. COVID-19 will only exacerbate these gaps and more students will miss out on opportunities to find success."
The organization said in a press release that while COVID-19 affected students in many ways this past spring, the data doesn't suggest the 2020 graduating class was affected in a substantive way by the safety measures and responses to COVID-19.
"It is too early to determine the ways in which COVID-19 may affect the testing rates and average scores of future graduating classes," the release said.
The Nebraska Department of Education said in a press release that achievement gaps between racial groups "remain substantial." White students in the state had an average composite score of 21.3, Asian students scored 20.7, Hispanic students scored 16.9, Native American students scored 16.2 and Black students scored 16.1.
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