State’s College Readiness Slips

Recent Wisconsin Policy Forum research has shown the state’s working age population is shrinking while many growing occupations require higher levels of education. In a new analysis of recently released data from the state, we now find areas of concern with regard to Wisconsin’s performance on an important education metric related to this challenge.

According to data from the state Department of Public Instruction, the share of high school students statewide whose ACT subject test scores indicate they are prepared for college courses in English, math, and science declined between 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Wisconsin’s state average composite score was 19.6 for 2018-19, which is a slight decline from the state average of 19.8 the year before. This modest decrease, however, is masking potentially significant declines within each subject area that are relevant to students’ “college readiness.”

The ACT establishes college readiness benchmarks in each of four subject areas, which indicate that a student has a “50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher” in the corresponding first-year college course.

Those benchmarks are a score of 18 (out of a possible 36) on the English section; 22 on the math section; 22 on the reading section; and 23 on the science section. There is no benchmark for the composite score.