See more of the story

The number of Minnesota students who took the ACT college entrance exam dropped for the class of 2021, with about 60% of students taking the test instead of the usual 90% participation rate.

State education officials say that's likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which greatly impacted the class of 2021's junior and senior years — the time when students typically take the ACT. It became difficult to schedule the standardized tests and many colleges nationwide chose to waive ACT and SAT score requirements for application.

Minnesota students who took the exam earned an average score of 21.6 out of a possible 36 —slightly higher than the class of 2020, which had an average score of 21.3. The state's performance has remained relatively consistent for the past few years. About one-third of Minnesota's 2021 graduates and one-fourth of graduates nationwide met all four ACT college-readiness benchmarks — the minimum scores required for students to have a high probability of success in their first-year college classes.

In a news release announcing the ACT results, state Education Commissioner Heather Mueller said she was "incredibly proud" of students' resilience and performance on the test.

"As anticipated, many students were unable to participate in the exam due to the impacts of the pandemic," she said in a statement. "The results for those who took the test are promising, but work remains to close gaps. We must continue to find ways to ensure all of our students are engaged and supported as they prepare for life beyond high school, whether that is in a career or in college."

Nationally, 35% of 2021 high school graduates took the exam, down from just under half of 2020 graduates. The average composite score nationwide was 20.3, the lowest in more than a decade.

Mara Klecker • 612-673-4440