A Large Racial Gap Persists in ACT Test Scores

act-thumbThe American College Testing Program’s ACT college admissions test was taken by 1,924,436 students in the high school graduating class of 2015. This is a 19 percent increase since 2011. Nearly 60 percent of all high school seniors take the ACT test.

In 2015, 252,566 Black students who were in the high school graduating class took the ACT test. This is up from 233, 383 Black student test takers in 2011.

The average composite score for Black test takers on the ACT was 17.1. (The ACT is graded on a scale of 1 to 36.) The average score for Blacks was lower than for any other racial or ethnic group including American Indians, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders. The average composite score for Whites in 2015 was 22.4.

On the optional writing test of the ACT, the average score for Blacks was 15.9, compared to an average White score of 21.8. Thus, the racial scoring gap on the writing ACT test is greater than on the standard ACT.

The racial gap in ACT scores has remained relatively constant for many years, with only slight fluctuations.

Comments (14)

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  1. Michael says:

    For the ACT purists, they need to realize that one’s score is not indicative of one’s intelligence and merely that of intellectual exposure and nurturing during the formative years. This ‘eugenics’ like study is another example of the continued intellectual attacks by White so-called academics.

  2. Alvin says:

    Let’s stop with the inferiority complex constantly spewed at students of color. The ACTs and SATs shows no prediction of post-secondary success, just like a child who scores high on an IQ test do not necessarily determine, longitudinally, where they will be as adults. GPA and hard-work ethic shows a stronger correlation to college success. than anything-else. Wes Moore, as a paragon, scored poorly on his college exams, but went on to graduate from Johns Hopkins University, become a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, and eventually a best selling author of “The Other Wes Moore,” which I read and found inspiring.

  3. James says:

    Regardless on whether it shows intelligence, the ACT, like the SAT, has been used as a legitimate way for schools to discern who the best students are for college acceptances. Outliers like this Wes Moore exist, sure, but this gap has been going on for years and these standardized tests are not going away – particularly at the most prestigious and selective colleges.

    This should be a call to action for further investment in test prep materials for African – American households. All I know is that I will be putting together a savings plan for my children to get the prep they need to score highly and urge other families to do the same.

    • Patrick says:

      Amen! Minus these test, folk need to understand that we still have a tremendous amount of work to do to close the achievement gap among African American students. No matter the indicator – Black students tend to lag.

      We simply need to fully operationalize a comprehensive education movement across predominately Black primary and secondary schools that attacks what we know as major barriers to educational achievement.

  4. James says:

    Part of the reason that White and Asian students in particular score higher is because they are getting prepped for these exams and not enough black students are. These score gaps are the result economic and financially fiscal disparities that likely occur on a micro-level (households), not racial intelligence disparities

    • caribbean queen says:

      yes. and often these families are prepping WELL BEFORE high school. by the time they sit for the test, many asian and white students –from households with financial resources– have practiced it so often that it feels like just another exam for them.

      • Ed says:

        This is one of the most persistent and false canards. Research has consistently shown that blacks actually use test prep at higher rates than any other group. Research also shows that prep on average increases ones score by 20-40 points on the SAT. You’re not going to go from scoring 800 to 1400 on the SAT just because you took a Kaplan course.

        Stop making excuses. There is no shame in acknowledging that the black mean IQ is lower than the white mean. Let’s figure out ways to close both the IQ and test score gap.

        • James says:

          Cqueen – agree 100%

          Ed -This is discouraging rhetoric, and I don’t believe that black IQ is necessarily lower than white or asian IQ. That’s what eugenicists have been saying all a long and have simply made me distrust the so called credibility of any “research”. I’d merely counter that the SAT and ACT are very specific tests that can be studied and trained for like any other entrance exam. It’s true that no Kaplan course is going to magically change a score, but good studying habits and other reforms will make impactful changes for example, relying on private tutoring or a cram school early on in hs. Too often has prep happened in hindsight or not at all in Afro American households and it needs to change to create opportunities for our children.

        • Michael says:

          Your ‘Margaret Sanger and William Shockley’ like commentary is both insulting and definitely shows your ignorance as it pertains to Blacks and their intelligence. In fact, the IQ test is based upon a European construct that has been consistently used as tactic to make it appear as if Europeans have some apparent intelligence advantage over other groups. Nothing could be further from the truth because the European Diaspora have historically and currently the greatest cultural and intellectual appropriators in the world. Then, they have the Chutzpah to make it appears as if they created something new when it fact they appropriated from others.

    • Chris says:

      I read an inspiring article from The New York Times about a poor, Asian immigrant student who immigrated to NYC with his parents and spoke no English. His parents worked all day at the laundromat they owned, but stressed education to their son. He was not going to let poverty, or language deter him, nor determine his destiny. Beginning in the 6th grade, he studied diligently and took every opportunity in FREE prep classes offered to prepare him for the entry exam required into one NYC’s prestigious specialized public high schools. In the end, despite langage barriers and lack of resources, he was accepted at Stuyvesant High school. Currently, he is a student at New York University.

      What this story proves is through motivation and encouragement, anything is possible.

    • Crystal Shaws says:

      To James and Michael,

      I read about this news in its entirety in The Associated Press. ACT scores have remand stagnant across racial groups for years and Black scores on these exams are at the very bottom. What is incomprehensible to me is why are we seeing Hispanics, whom most are raised bilingual, scoring higher than Blacks, especially in the English portion. Now, I’m not siding with Ed in this argument, but I believe that education is not being emphasized (as much) in the homes of African American children.

      • Michael says:

        Re: Crystal;

        I agree with your point that too many native born Blacks are not being taught within their respective families to appreciate and embrace academic excellence unfortunately. We have to be mindful that if the Black community are being socially engineering to be the next ‘Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Marshawn Lynch, Jameis Winston, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Beyoncé, Jay-Z(no disrespect of course to any of them), then, we should not be even remotely surprised in what we’re seeing. Regarding the Latino students who are outperforming native born Black students on the English portion of the ACT, you have to be remember that ESL students actually learn grammar, syntax, along with the eight parts of speech. I’m not making any excuses for native born Black students by any measure. However, many native born Black students are never taught or learn the basic writing fundamentals. In close, until the native born Black community began to view education collectively as most important as compared to anything else, we will continue going down this slippery slope.

        • James says:

          Crystal and Michael:

          I agree absolutely. In my own future household, I am very comfortable with the fact that since I know about this disparity, I can accurately prepare my children for the challenges ahead and often that means to be academic titans. I’m sure all of you will do the same in you’re own ways. That’s the micro scale.

          The reality is that the macro scale can be pretty bleak. I wonder how someone working double over time at low pay, under or unemployed, and facing systemic oppression can get the information to pull off a laundry type anecdote rags to riches story by getting the information they need.

          Already on this site there is a selection bias as to who is reading my post right now. I’d bet most of the households who would really value from more prep/discipline/whatever they need to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” don’t either know about ripple effects of these disparities or care. It’s the push to get past focusing on the day by day that will lead to reform. Questbridge/ other programs can help but it’s certainly a challenge.

          I hope we as a Jbhe community can keep supporting each other and striving for success. Eventually Micro changes will become Macro.

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