Kansas ACT scores, college readiness indicators drop

Kansas juniors will be able to take the ACT college entrance exam and WorkKeys assessment for free next February.
Kansas juniors will be able to take the ACT college entrance exam and WorkKeys assessment for free next February. File photo

Kansas students’ college readiness, as measured by the ACT college entrance exam, fell to its lowest point in five years, according to figures released this week.

The percentage of Kansas high school graduates who took the ACT and scored at the college-ready benchmark on all four subjects (English, math, reading and science) dropped to 29 percent in 2017, down from 32 percent in 2013 and the lowest since 2012. The number remains above the national average of 27 percent.

The average composite ACT score for Kansas dropped from 21.9 last year to 21.7. The highest Kansas composite score was 22 in 2014. Nationally this year, the average composite score was 21.

Most college-bound Kansas students take the ACT, and the number continues to rise. In 2017, 24,741 Kansas students took the ACT, an increase of 253 students over 2016. This year’s number of test takers is the highest in seven years.

Seventy-three percent of 2017 graduates took the ACT, compared to 60 percent nationally.

Mark Tallman, associate executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards, said the decline in students’ college readiness could be attributed to school budget woes over the past several years.

“Unfortunately, this year’s ACT results are further evidence that Kansas educational progress has stagnated at best, and begun to decline at worst,” Tallman said in a statement Thursday.

“Kansas school leaders have warned for years that failing to provide adequate funding with student enrollment rising and becoming more diverse will erode the quality of education.”

Only 46 percent of Kansas students who took the ACT exam met the college readiness benchmark in math, down from 48 percent in 2012. Sixty-nine percent met the readiness benchmark for English, 54 percent in reading and 41 percent in science.

The ACT college readiness benchmarks represent scores that would indicate a level of preparation needed to have at least a 50 percent chance of getting a B or above in entry-level college courses.

The ACT college readiness benchmark scores are: English, 18; reading, 22; math, 22; and science, 23.

The decline in college readiness indicators comes as education leaders have pushed to increase graduation rates, post-secondary attendance and completion of post-secondary degrees through the state’s “Kansas Can” vision.

A national study conducted by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce predicts that by the year 2020, 71 percent of jobs in Kansas will require a post-secondary certificate or degree.

“While we are encouraged by the increasing number of Kansas students preparing for post-secondary education, we know we have to better prepare our students both academically and socially/emotionally for life after high school,” said Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson.

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias