Ray Carter | October 13, 2022

ACT scores declining or flat for 7 of 8 years under Hofmeister

Ray Carter

A new report shows the graduating class of 2022 in Oklahoma had among the worst average composite scores on the ACT test nationwide.

Oklahoma’s average composite score of 17.9 was the third lowest in the nation, a statistic made even worse by the fact that the national average ACT composite test score was the lowest seen in three decades.

While part of the decline was blamed on the aftermath of COVID shutdowns, Oklahoma’s average ACT score began declining prior to COVID and has steadily dropped throughout the two-term tenure of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister.

With the release of the 2022 results, Oklahoma’s average ACT composite score has declined or been flat in seven of the eight years Hofmeister has been in charge of the public-school system as state superintendent.

That decline contrasts with trends prior to Hofmeister’s election and has continued even as state funding for schools has surged in recent years.

Oklahoma’s average composite score indicates most 2022 graduates were not prepared for admission to the state’s major universities. At the University of Oklahoma, 2021 freshman class members had an average ACT composite score of 26.4. Oklahoma State University requires an ACT score of 24 or better to meet “assured admission criteria.” The University of Central Oklahoma requires an ACT score of 20.

Data compiled by the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) shows that Oklahoma’s average composite ACT score remained steady from 2008 to 2014 when the average composite score constantly hovered at 20.7 and 20.8.

During Hofmeister’s first year as state superintendent, 2015, the average composite score slipped slightly to 20.4. It has declined or been static every year since with the exception of 2021, when the average composite score rose from 18.7 to 19.7. However, the 2021 results were considered inflated because the share of students taking the test dropped significantly that year to just 58 percent. When the share of students taking the test returned to 94 percent in 2022, the average composite score plunged to 17.9.

LOFT’s data shows Oklahoma’s average ACT composite score dropped from 20.4 in 2015 to 19.4 in 2016, then dropped to 19.3 in 2017, then to 18.9 in 2018, held steady at 18.9 in 2019, then declined to 18.7 in 2020, before temporarily rising to 19.7 in 2021, and then plunged to 17.9 in 2022.

Since 2017, Oklahoma has paid to provide the ACT test to up to 100 percent of graduates each year, which was expected to cause some decline in the average composite score as participation increased.

However, the lion’s share of Oklahoma seniors were taking the ACT even prior to 2017, ranging from 75 percent of eligible students to 82 percent from 2012 to 2016, mitigating impact.

In addition, after 100 percent of students were able to take the test, ACT results showed that most Oklahoma students were not meeting all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks.

ACT reports show that only 16 percent of Oklahoma graduates met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in 2017. In 2018, once again only 16 percent of Oklahoma graduates met all four benchmarks. In 2019, that figure declined to just 15 percent of Oklahoma graduates.

In contrast, ACT reported that 46 percent of Oklahoma graduates met zero ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in 2019.

Those declining academic outcomes have occurred against a backdrop of multiple years of record school funding.

In an interview with NBC-affiliate KFOR, one of Hofmeister’s lieutenants downplayed the trendline, saying that officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Education had “known all along that recovery is going to take some time.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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