U.S. High School Graduating Class Trends
As a national leader in assessment, research, and data, ACT releases its annual snapshot of the 2022 ACT-tested graduating class. Using the data visualization tools and resources, individuals can compare college and career readiness trends across the past ten years, including student performance relative to ACT College Readiness and STEM Benchmarks.
U.S. High School Class of 2022 Graduating Class Data
Context matters for the graduating class of 2022. This cohort endured the effects of a global pandemic spanning across the three years of their education: sophomore, junior, and senior years. ACT puts forth this data, in addition to our extensive COVID-19 related research, to ensure that school systems and states can make informed decisions that will improve outcomes for their students and families. ACT uses a holistic view and our consistent and reliable historical information to provide greater context and visibility as educators make critical decisions for future cohorts of students.
Highlights From This Year’s Data
- Approximately 1.3 million students in the U.S. high school graduating class of 2022 took the ACT test, an estimated 36 percent of graduates nationwide.
- The national average Composite score for the graduating class of 2022 is 19.8, down from 20.3 for the graduating class of 2021, the lowest average score since 1991.
- Thirty-five percent of the ACT-tested graduating class took the ACT more than once, as compared to 32% for the 2021 cohort.
- Thirty-two percent of ACT-tested graduates in the class of 2022 met at least three out of four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks (English, reading, math, and science), while, 42% of students met none of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks and 22% met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks.
- A record number of students in this cohort took the ACT as part of state and district school-day testing—16 states tested more than 75% of their students—providing students the opportunity to earn college-reportable ACT scores by taking the test in their own classrooms during regular school hours on a weekday and allowing states to receive a clearer understanding of how their school districts are performing.
Data Visualization Tool
The data visualization tool presented below contains data for ACT-tested high school graduating seniors from 2013 through 2022—more than 18 million students—to allow users to quickly view state and national trends across multiple dimensions and outcomes.
The interactive tool contains three views, or data visualization options, for exploring the data. Users can move between the views using the tabs provided at the top. The Class Composition/Makeup view shows distributional trends—percentages—of students falling into specific subgroups, which the user selects. The Class Averages and Benchmark Percents view provides a look at student achievement over time, by user-selected characteristics and subgroup populations. The Score Distributions view shows the number and cumulative percent of student scores on the ACT, with options to examine the distribution of average ACT Composite scores, STEM and ELA scores, and scores on each subject test. Each view allows the user to select one or more states to compare against another one or more states; the default view shows the national population.
Because interpretation of graduating class composition and achievement levels are impacted by the percentage of graduates taking the ACT, a “WICHE-Estimated Overall Percent Tested” bar is included below the first two views.
For information about accessing this tool using a keyboard, please see Tableau's help page for keyboard navigation.
Note: ACT recommends using caution before comparing dissimilar populations. For example, a state testing 100 percent of its graduating class would be expected to have a lower average Composite score than a state where only 50 percent of students (presumably those more likely to be going to college) have taken the ACT. Even trends over time can be impacted in this manner, as a state begins or ends “census” testing.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, ACT cautions users from making comparisons about this graduating class to previous cohorts or inferring the magnitude of the impact of COVID-related school disruptions on student learning from these data. ACT’s research on pandemic-era score declines has focused on school-day testing programs, including PreACT, ACT Aspire, and ACT state and district testing.
Explore Additional Datasets
- Year-to-Year Average ACT Composite Score Changes
- ACT Composite and ACT Superscore Score Distributions
- Career Pathway Opportunities
- Industry Sector Benchmarks and Wages
- Enrollment, Retention, and Transfer Behaviors
Need Help Putting ACT Data to Work?
You can learn more about how to use ACT insights at your school—and find solutions to your challenges—during our annual ACT College and Career Readiness Workshops. These events are available in your region and many of them present state-specific information, as well as tools and best practices presented by ACT experts.