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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin's state superintendent described a drop in ACT college preparatory test results released Wednesday as a "solid starting place," given that they represent the first year that all public high school seniors took the exam.
Still, the latest results will likely pose a conundrum for Gov. Scott Walker, who has frequently pointed to the state's historically high ACT scores as proof that education is strong under his leadership.
Wisconsin's composite scores on the test this year were down 1.7 points 20.5. That is below the national average of 20.8, but is fourth highest among the 20 states where 100 percent of graduating seniors, or nearly all seniors, took the test.
Among all states, Wisconsin ranked 29th.
Superintendent Tony Evers noted in a statement that testing all graduating seniors for college and career readiness is a "high bar."
"These results represent achievement for all students, not just those headed to college who took the ACT in prior years," Evers said.
From 1994 through 2015, Wisconsin's test scores placed the state first, second or third among states that had at least 50 percent participation. This year, among states with at least 50 percent participation, Wisconsin's rank plummeted to 11th.
Walker had long touted the high scores. In his 2015 State of the State speech, as he was preparing to run for president, Walker said "ACT scores are up and Wisconsin now ranks second in the country."
Wisconsin's average score was 22.2 in both 2014 and 2015, up slightly from 22.1 in both 2012 and 2013.
When asked to comment on the latest lower scores, Walker's spokesman Tom Evenson deferred to Evers' statement. In particular, Evenson focused on the part of Evers' press release noting that ACT had predicted scores would drop between 1.3 points and 1.8 points in states like Wisconsin where all graduating seniors were newly required to take the exam.
The ACT results this year "represent the most comprehensive look at college and career readiness we have ever seen," Evers said. "By testing all public school students we are opening the doors to opportunities for college and careers."
Wisconsin's results continued to show an achievement gap. White students on average performed better than all other racial and ethnic groups with a 21.5 composite score. That was still below the national average of 22.2.
Other groups fared far worse. Wisconsin African American students' average was 15.9, Hispanic students' average was 17.9 while the average for Asian students in Wisconsin was 20.4. All three groups posted lower scores than the national averages of 17 for African Americans, 18.7 for Hispanics and 24 for Asians.
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