By Jonathan Make
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE — Just as they have in some other states and across the nation on average, scores on a college admissions test have dropped in Wyoming, recently released data show.
Nationally and locally, officials have said the COVID-19 pandemic has affected learning, and this has shown up in test scores and other measures of performance.
One way to measure performance on this standardized exam is to examine data for high school juniors. As a Wyoming Department of Education spokesperson noted in an email to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “In Wyoming, we do census testing, so every student tests in their junior year. Not all states do that, and many only test students who are on the college track.”
Wyoming is among six states that last school year required all juniors to take the test during the school day, ACT’s Rose Babington said Thursday: Nearby states also doing this include Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota.
For 11th graders in the 2021-22 academic year, according to data for Wyoming that was recently released, the average English score on the ACT was 17.4, per a WTE analysis of the WDE statistics.
The equivalent score for math was 18.4, and it was 19.1 for both reading and for science. These figures made for an average statewide composite of 18.6.
Possible scores range from 1 to 36, ACT says.
For the 2020-21 school year, the composite score average was 19 in Wyoming for high school juniors. Going back to the 2018-19 school year, before this pandemic, the score listed Friday evening appeared to have been higher than for the 2021-20 school year.
However, those results could not immediately be accessed again on Wednesday and Thursday. Staffers were not able to explain why, other than pointing out how to try to access the statistics.
By the measure ACT itself releases, the most recent score from among all students who graduated this past spring in Wyoming was 19.2, the national organization reported.
According to other data, the Class of 2022’s score was down 0.6 points, or some 3%, from both the classes of 2021 and 2019, the latter of which was the last batch of spring grads before COVID-19.
The 0.6-point year-over-year decline in Wyoming compares to a half-point decrease nationally, according to Babington, the senior director of state partnerships at ACT.
Nationally, she explained to the WTE, “this is a class that I would say is probably the first to see the impact of the pandemic relative to the ACT scores in a significant way.”
She noted “more than half of their high school career (was) under the shadow of the pandemic.”
“That’s why we are seeing more of an impact on this year’s graduates,” she said, compared to scores changing much less year to year between the classes of 2019, 2020 and 2021.
In other figures, according to a WDE news release last Friday, “Wyoming’s graduating class of 2022 had an average composite score of 19.2 on the ACT.”
One positive is how seriously officials at WDE take the ACT, officials said.
“Wyoming has worked really close with us since pretty much day one of schools closing during the pandemic to make sure that every student had the ability to take the ACT and get that college reportable score. I think that really speaks to the state’s commitment,” Babington said, “particularly given the disruption due to the pandemic.”
“We are very proud of Wyoming’s class of 2022,” WDE Deputy Superintendent Chad Auer said in the written announcement. “This group of students, along with their teachers and parents, battled through a lot of adversity during their high school careers. Their perseverance and determination are commendable. As a state, we clearly have a lot to be proud of, and we have more work to do.”
Meanwhile, “the national average ACT Composite score for the high school class of 2022 was 19.8, the lowest average score in more than three decades,” the ACT nonprofit test administrator organization reported on Oct. 12.
“This is the fifth consecutive year of declines in average scores, a worrisome trend that began long before the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has persisted,” ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in the written statement. “The magnitude of the declines this year is particularly alarming, as we see rapidly growing numbers of seniors leaving high school without meeting the college-readiness benchmark in any of the subjects we measure. … They are further evidence of longtime systemic failures that were exacerbated by the pandemic.”