Georgia ACT scores fall, but remain above U.S. average

Georgia high school students from the class of 2023 performed worse on the ACT college admissions test than the class before them.

Georgia students still beat the U.S. average, which also fell.

This cohort of students, the ACT noted, were freshmen when the COVID-19 pandemic led to lockdowns and remote schooling.

“Their education was severely impacted by the national crisis,” state school Superintendent Richard Woods said in a statement with the release of Georgia’s scores. But he said they had overcome adversity with their performance on the ACT and other measures, such as the state’s 2023 graduation rate of 84.4%, up 0.3 percentage points from 84.1% in 2022.

The state’s average composite ACT score of 21.3 was 0.3 points lower than for the class of 2022. It was also nearly 2 points higher than the national average of 19.5.

Woods noted that Georgia students have outscored the nation for seven straight years. That was during a period when national scores have fallen to a 30-year low.

“This is the sixth consecutive year of declines in average scores, with average scores declining in every academic subject,” ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in a statement issued with the scores. National average composite scores for the 1.4 million tested U.S. students fell across all subjects. Math, reading and science fell 0.3 points while the English score dropped 0.4 points.

Forty-three percent of the national class of 2023 met none of the ACT’s benchmarks for first-year college success, a historic high.

“The hard truth is that we are not doing enough to ensure that graduates are truly ready for postsecondary success in college and career,” Godwin said. The students’ performance is a “national priority and imperative,” she said.

The percentage of test-takers can influence the average. More testers usually means more lower-performing students in the mix, which can suppress the average scores. Georgia’s participation rate of 28% was 9 percentage points below the national average of 37%, according to the ACT.

The ACT performance is similar to the trend on the other college admissions test: Georgia’s score on the SAT also fell yet remained above the national average. Students seeking to enroll at 23 of Georgia’s 26 public universities for the 2024-2025 school year won’t need to take the ACT or SAT college exam to gain admission.

The ACT issued a paper this summer that said high school grade-point averages rose from 2010 to 2022, particularly in math, even as ACT scores were flat or fell. “This study revealed evidence of grade inflation in English, mathematics, social studies, and science,” the author wrote.

On Wednesday, Godwin, the ACT CEO, said rising GPAs are giving students false hope.

“We are also continuing to see a rise in the number of seniors leaving high school without meeting any of the college readiness benchmarks, even as student GPAs continue to rise and students report that they feel prepared to be successful in college,” she said.