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Data shows ACT scores on the decline in Missouri

A student takes a paper test.
Ben Mullins
ACT scores are declining across the nation, as well.

MISSOURI − ACT scores have declined nationwide for a sixth consecutive year, according to data released last week. A record proportion of test takers reached none of the organization's benchmarks for college readiness.

Though it's higher than the nationwide average of 19.5, Missouri's average score was 19.8 for 2023. According to ACT data, scores have also been dropping in Missouri since the 2020 graduating class.

  • 20.8 in 2019
  • 20.7 in 2020
  • 20.6 in 2021
  • 20.2 in 2022
  • 19.8 in 2023

"One argument is that we're not teaching kids what they need to know on the test and therefore they're not doing well on the test," said Thomas Scharenborg, the director of operations for Focus on Learning, a Columbia P/SAT and ACT education center.

According to Scharenborg, COVID-19 was another factor. Some districts weren't able to provide proper ACT preparation for students. However, the more common issue is that teachers don't have time to simulate the test for their students.

"Part of the issue is practice. Students need to be able to practice like they're taking the test, and many teachers just don't have the time to be able to do that for a lot of students," Scharenborg said. "Also teachers don't have the time to do enough analysis regarding what learning criteria students are struggling with in the ACT test and adapting that in their lesson plans."

Scharenborg said it's important for districts to look into that information so students can better prep for the ACT test.

One thing to note is that Missouri's 2018 class was the last class to have 100% of students take the ACT test. Since then, the percentage of students taking the test has dropped to 66%.

That change has been driven by colleges embracing test-optional policies like the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which stopped requiring the ACT test for applicants.

However, according to Scharenborg, many universities like MU still look for ACT scores in applications even though the UM stopped requiring standardized test scores for admission for the 2021-2022 school year.

"It's the best way we can compare students around the country as of right now," Scharenborg said. "It's too hard to compare students that come from different states with different curriculum requirements and so as far as applications are concerned the ACT is still a very important test to take."

KOMU 8 is a full-powered NBC affiliate operating as an independent commercial property. As such, KOMU 8 is the only major network affiliate in the United States that acts as a university-owned commercial television station utilizing its newsroom as a working lab for students.
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