Boots & Sabers

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1609, 16 Jan 16

Wisconsin’s Average ACT Scores Drop

There are some lefties out there in full froth using this drop as some sort of proof that Republican policies are damaging education. In fact, the explanation is much more pedestrian.

Comparing Wisconsin ACT scores released this week with those of years past is a tricky business, the Department of Public Instruction and local school officials warn.

Juniors across Wisconsin last year took the ACT, bumping Wisconsin’s participation rate from 73 percent to almost 100 percent. The average composite score was 20.0, 2.2 points lower than the average composite score posted the year before. (That 2014 average included only the best score posted by each test taker, regardless of grade.)

“To do justice, you need to compare apples to apples,” said Roger Fruit, the Onalaska School District’s director of instructional services.

Sixty-nine percent of last year’s graduating class at Onalaska took the ACT, he said, with an average composite score of 24.1. A score of 21 is considered an informal bar for admission at selective universities. This past year, 98 percent of juniors took the exam and posted an average score of 22.1. Fruit said he expects that number to go up when ACT Inc. releases graduating class information for 2016.


Slightly more than half the states in the nation have an ACT participation rate higher than 50 percent, according to ACT data, and states with higher participation rates tend to have lower average composite scores. Compared with all states, Wisconsin’s average score last year put it in the upper middle of the pack, 18th, right behind Iowa and four slots behind Minnesota.

 For the 13 states with 100 percent participation last year, composite scores ranged between 19.0 and 20.7, putting Wisconsin’s new scores above the mid-range compared with last year’s data.

In the past, only kids who planned to go to college took the ACT. Now they all are required to do it. Frankly, I think that’s a stupid rule and a waste of time and money, but the average score would necessarily drop if you have 100% participation.


1609, 16 January 2016


  1. T of B

    You must have missed the articles out there about the big “plummet” in ACT scores in Wisconsin – articles were based on Democrat party press release – all “proof” of failed Walker/Republican policies on education. Milwaukee Jounal Sentinel did Politifact – rated “Pants On Fire”. No change in year-to-year scores.

  2. old baldy


    I’m curious about your statement “Now they all are required to do it”. None of the 5 school districts in our county require kids to take the ACT. What gives??

  3. T of B

    In the past all students took WKCE and some took the ACT. Feds require some kind of assessment. Since some students need ACT for college admission, it made sense to eliminate the WKCE – all students take 1 test now, instead of some taking 2.

  4. Kevin Scheunemann

    Take out liberal run MPS students….the 75% who are not even at basic reading level,the scores go up by 2-3 points.

    It’ s failed liberal education establishment that should take blame for Republicans measuring their failed students…finally.

  5. old baldy

    But the ACT isn’t the required test statewide. Perhaps in WB, but not everywhere.

  6. Stiles

    All Juniors in Wisconsin public schools and publicly funded juniors in choice schools took the ACT (and WorkKeys) in March 2015. The ACT is now the main required state assessment at the high school level in Wisconsin.

  7. old baldy


    I talked to our superintendent and a SB member and they said the ACT is not required. It may be the choice of a SD, but is not required. They did not have it required at any of the 5 districts in our county. So who is right? Don’t know, and no longer care.

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