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  • Jordan Harris

Kentucky has below average ACT scores, but there's a catch . . .

Many students, who are going back to school this week, will be taking the ACT later this school year. After many years as the less popular test, the ACT surpassed the SAT in 2016, with more students nationwide now using the ACT for their college entrance exam. Kentucky has long used the ACT, administering the test to 11th grade students every spring.

So, how do Kentucky students stack up?

The national average composite ACT score is a 21.0 out of a possible 36. Kentucky students average a composite score of 20. In total, Kentucky students are below national average in every ACT category as compared to national peers. The national average for the English section is 20.3 versus Kentucky's average of 19.6. The national average of the Math section is 20.7 versus Kentucky's average of 19.4. For Reading the national average is 21.4, the highest of any individual category versus a 20.5 for Kentucky. Finally, the national average for the Science section of the ACT is 21.0 versus 20.1 in Kentucky.

On one hand it is discouraging to see Kentucky score below national average in every ACT category. It is somewhat unfair to compare Kentucky to national averages since all 11th grade students take the exam. In many states, only college bound students take the exam, and in some cases students in states with SAT requirements opt to take the ACT also. It is a more accurate comparison to look at Kentucky's scores as compared to other states were 100% of students take the ACT.

There are 18 such states, and when compared to them Kentucky's position looks much better. In fact, when compared to the 18 states with 100% ACT participation, Kentucky is at or above average in every category. The total composite score for that group is 19.74 versus Kentucky's already referenced 20.0. The average for English is 18.97 versus Kentucky's 19.6. For Math, the average is 19.4 which is exactly even with Kentucky's 19.4. In Reading, the average is 20.2 versus Kentucky's 20.5. Finally, in Science, the average of 19.94 is below Kentucky's 20.1.

It is worthwhile to consider how Kentucky's largest school districts compare as well. Nearly 30% of Kentucky public school students attend school in the five largest districts (Jefferson, Fayette, Boone, Warren, Hardin). Of the state's five largest districts only Jefferson County and Hardin County fall below the composite state average. Both counties are below state average in every category. Boone County has the highest scores among the five, with a composite score more than a full point above state average (21.1) and performing significantly above state average in every major category.

To see how every county in to Commonwealth stacks up, click here.

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