In a year marred by a pandemic that kept many students out of class for two months, the ACT scores for 2019-2020 fell slightly statewide and more significantly in Avoyelles Parish.
“Of course we are disappointed in the drop in the ACT scores,” Avoyelles Parish School District Superintendent Blaine Dauzat said. “There is obviously something going on because as I go
down the list, a majority of school districts across the state are also down. Statewide the scores dropped.”
The district’s ACT average was 16.1, compared to 16.8 in 2018-19. The statewide average, which includes private and charter school scores, was 18.7, down from 18.9 the previous year. Among the four APSD high schools, LaSAS — a charter school operating within the public school system — had the highest average ACT score at 18.0. The three traditional high schools all had averages below the overall
district average, with Bunkie Magnet at 15.7, Marksville at 15.6 and Avoyelles at 15.3.
Avoyelles Public Charter, an independent public school in Mansura, had an average ACT score of 23.3, which is in the top 15 public high schools’ average score.
A perfect ACT score is 36.
St. Joseph Catholic High School’s final average ACT score for 2020 is not available, Principal Billy Albritton said. The onset of the COVID pandemic caused some problems for the
small class of 15 seniors, he said.
“Some retook the test and did not fill in the school information,” he said, “so we do not get credit for those scores.”
Albritton said he expects the ACT average declined “possibly three or four points.”
He said the last ACT score report he saw early last school year showed an average of about 22.1 for tests that had been taken as of that time. He said the final average “was probably 17 or 18.”
NOT AN EXCUSE
“We don’t want to use the pandemic as an excuse,” Dauzat continued, “but students being out of class for two months out of the nine months for the school year definitely had some effect. For
one thing, it hurt students’ access to take the test during the last half of the year. We usually offer the tests in March and June to give students a chance to improve their score. That didn’t happen this
The state, district and school averages are based on a student’s best score, with lower scores not included in that average.
Looking only at the public school districts, Avoyelles trails its nearest neighbors in the average ACT score comparison.
Rapides Parish’s average ACT for 2020 was 18.9, Evangeline was 18.2, St. Landry was 17.5, Pointe Coupee was 16.7 and Catahoula was 16.4.
The ACT is a college entrance exam. Some states use this exam as the primary test for students going on to college while others prefer the SAT.
The national average for ACT scores in 2020 was 20.7, but that is with only 52 percent participation.
Louisiana is one of 15 states in which 100 percent of graduating seniors must take the test, even if they do not intend to go to college. The most recent list of those 15 states’ results is the 2019
scores. That site listed Louisiana’s average as 18.8 instead of 18.9.
Louisiana was 13th, ahead of Mississippi’s 18.4 and Nevada’s 17.9 showing and just below Alabama and Oklahoma with 18.9 averages.
For that year, Utah and Wisconsin tied for the highest average score among the “100 percent” states at 20.3. Ohio and Nebraska followed with 20.0 average scores. Kentucky, Montana and Wyoming were all at 19.8. The other states and their average score for 2019 were Tennessee (19.4), Arkansas (19.3) and North Carolina (19.0).
The state Department of Education noted the 18.7 average in 2020 is the lowest for a graduating class since the state granted access to all students in 2013. It is the third consecutive year the state average had fallen since the highwater mark of 19.6 in 2016-17.
The statewide score includes the most recent ACT score of 53,000 public and private school students who were anticipating graduating in 2020.
“Our Louisiana students are as talented as any across the country,” State Education Superintendent Cade Brumley said. “This continued decline in scores should trigger our thinking about flipping this trajectory. When students score higher, they open additional doors of opportunities for themselves and their families.”
While some will argue the 100 percent participation rule is guaranteed to result in a lower statewide average, other education leaders argue that it gives all students the opportunity to show if they are “college material” and provides them with the test score that might help them pursue post-secondary education — possibly even obtain scholarships.
In the past, a bright student whose family did not have the economic resources for college might not take the test because it wouldn’t matter even if he did well.
After 2013, those students at least had the opportunity to take a test to see if they might succeed in college — if not with scholarships, then possibly with other financial aid such as student loans or
“Louisiana is a good example of providing access to all students, but the decline in ACT scores over time is clearly a call to action,” state Higher Education Commissioner Kim Hunter Reed said.
“While ACT scores are not mandated for college acceptance in Louisiana, this year’s scores are a clear charge to us to do better in preparing all students.
“For students to envision themselves succeeding in college, it’s important for them to achieve scores that support their progress and increase access to scholarships and aid,” Reed continued. “Expanded
access and student success must be our collective goal.”
SCORE IS IMPORTANT
The ACT score is important because it can determine what college a student attends and whether that student might have to take remedial courses prior to starting college-level classes in such areas as
math and Language Arts.
For example, LSU requires a minimum ACT composite score of 22. The TOPS student aid program requires at least a score of 20.
Brumley said the DoE will work with schools to review curriculum and possibly make adjustments to help ensure students are properly prepared to take the ACT.
“We know that we are about two points below the national average, and we know that our university partners are also concerned about this number — and rightfully so,” Brumley continued. “If we are not able
to get these scores up, then students are missing out on the colleges of their choice, they are missing out on scholarship opportunities, which means money out of the pockets of their parents and families.”