Eleven percent fewer Utah students took the ACT college entrance exam between the graduating class of 2020 and that of 2021, a trend that began before — but was exacerbated by — the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ACT CEO Janet Godwin.

The good news is that Utah students’ average composite scores rose from 20.2 to 20.6 for the same period, bucking a national trend that saw average composite scores drop from 20.6 to 20.3, the lowest average score in more than a decade. The number of students taking the test nationally dropped by 22 percent.

Among the 2021 graduating class nationwide, 25 percent of students met all four ACT benchmarks of college readiness — English composition, college algebra, social sciences and biology. However, 38 percent of students met none of these benchmarks, which are the minimum ACT scores required for students to have a high probability of success in credit-bearing first-year college courses.

While the rise in Utah’s scores bucked the national experience, the results revealed that a disproportionate number of nonwhite students — with the exception of Asian students — were more likely to be part of the 11 percent in Utah who did not take the test.

Among Utah students, average scores rose in English, math, reading and science while subject matter scores fell nationally, according to the results. Utah scores for all racial and ethnic groups rose, except for students who identify as Pacific Islanders, whose composite scores dropped from 17.0 in 2020 to 16.7 in 2021.

The 2021 results reflect difficulties posed by school closures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and challenges some students experienced when they were unable to arrange to take the test during national testing dates established by ACT.

All Utah public schools take the ACT, but only students who took the 11th grade ACT test in the first testing window of 2020 were able to take the test at school due to the statewide soft closure of school buildings.

“Utah students who were set to take the 11th grade ACT test during either of the other two in-school testing windows were given vouchers and had to arrange to take the test on one of the ACT national testing dates available through 2020,” according to a Utah State Board of Education press release.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson, in a statement, noted that the past two school years have been challenging for everyone.

“The great news of our ACT results is a reflection on the students, teachers, and parents who made this happen through their commitment to education. This year we need to continue focusing on ensuring that all students who are age eligible take the ACT, which will help them expand their choices and opportunities for the future,” Dickson said.

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