If you put any stock in standardized tests, the latest ACT scores suggest South Dakota kids got dumber while nationwide kids got smarter. South Dakota kids are still beating the national average: we dropped from 21.9 to 21.8 while the national ACT average rose from 20.8 to 21.0.
But don’t be tricked by those numbers. The percentage of South Dakota graduating seniors taking the ACT rose from 76% to 80%, which may explain some of the small decline: the new test-takers may consist of a greater number of lower-achieving students who are joining more traditional, high-achieving students in looking at going to college or vo-tech.
ACT participation rates further support the notion that South Dakota continues to outpace the nation in academic abilities: only 60% of 2017 graduates nationwide took the ACT. South Dakota thus tests a wider range of students and still manages to post better scores than the nation as a whole.