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About the Data - ACT Graduates

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ACT Graduates data includes test records for school year X for students who tested during their sophomore, junior or senior year, and who indicated they would graduate in school year X. This differs from the ACT Statewide data (found under the State Tests dropdown) which includes test records for students who tested on the state-mandated administration dates during their junior year. 

The ACT® assesses students' academic readiness for college and is the capstone of several assessment products offered by ACT, Inc. The page focuses only on The ACT®. Students may take The ACT on any of several dates during the school year. Information about student participation and performance on The ACT, by graduation year, is available on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Website.

Where to Find Data about The ACT
School Years  WISEdash   WINSS Historical Data Files 
Beginning with 2007-08 X --
1995-96 through 2006-07 -- X

WISEdash is DPI's primary data analysis portal and contains the most current and most complete range of data about The ACT. WINSS Data Analysis was DPI's primary public data portal for ACT results until Fall 2013 when more recent years of WINSS data were migrated to WISEdash.  ACT participation and performance are also included as part of Wisconsin's Accountability Report Cards; see About Wisconsin Accountability.

Below you will find detailed background information, definitions, and related links to facilitate use and appropriate interpretation of The ACT results on the DPI Website. Unless otherwise indicated, all information about WISEdash data on this page is about the Certified Data.


  1. DPI ACT data may not exactly match data published by external sources.
    • DPI summaries only include data for students enrolled in Wisconsin public schools. Other sources occasionally combine ACT results for public and private schools.
    • When counting district ACT takers, DPI counts unique Wisconsin Student Numbers, if available, for each district, rather than student records provided by ACT. This typically results in slightly lower participation counts and slightly different average scores in DPI summaries than might be provided by ACT. Wisconsin Student Numbers became available for this purpose prior to publishing the 2007-08 ACT results.
    • The student records ACT provides to DPI include institution codes. In some cases these codes are found to be invalid or wrong and are corrected by WI DPI to the extent possible prior to reporting by DPI. Consequently, DPI counts by district and school may not exactly match ACT records.
    • DPI reports ACT participation as a percent of official WI fall enrollment whereas outside sources often report participation as a percent of graduates. Using the number of graduates as the denominator rather than fall enrollment would be expected to produce a higher participation rate.
  2. ACT stopped reporting the Combined score (English and writing) for tests taken after 2014-15.  Scores for tests taken before 2015-16 that contain a Combined score may still be included in ACT Graduate files received for later years that do not contain a Combined score.
  3. In 2012-13, the student records ACT provides to DPI began including students tested with ACT-approved accommodations. According to ACT, the overall effect on reporting was minimal at the national level, about 3 percent of all students tested. For any particular school or district the impact will vary. Increases in participation rates from 2011-12 to 2012-13 may be due in part to the 2012-13 inclusion of students tested with ACT-approved modifications. ACT records indicate that students who take The ACT with accommodations tend to score lower than other students, so inclusion of scores for these students would tend to decrease average scores.
  4. In 2012-13, ACT decreased its science benchmark by one score point and increased its reading benchmark by one score point. ACT's college readiness benchmarks predict a specific level of success in first year college coursework and are based on ACT's statistical analysis of the relationship between test scores and course grades. Occasionally, benchmarks may need to be adjusted so that they continue to predict the same level of success as in the past. These adjustments may partly account for the shifts between 2011-12 and 2012-13 in the percentages of students who met the reading college readiness benchmark and the science college readiness benchmark. Over the longer term, the adjustments help to maintain the legitimacy of multi-year comparisons of college readiness percentages.
  5. In 2012 DPI discovered duplicate reporting of test results by ACT. This resulted in the same test being reported for more than one school year for some students. For school years starting with 2008-09, these duplicate results have been identified and removed from the data. Only the earliest report of a test result by ACT to DPI is reported by DPI. Subsequent reporting of tests by the same student with identical results are discarded. Note that this is not the same as tests being taken multiple times by the same student, in which case only the latest test result is included.
  6. If 2004-05 test/exam participation rates for your school or district are much higher or lower than expected, then the likely cause is 2004-05 student enrollment counts that don't reflect reality. If reported 2004-05 enrollment counts are higher or lower than actual counts, then ACT "% Tested" will be lower or higher than actual percents. Major changes in WI student data collection systems were implemented in 2004-05. 2004-05 student counts were included in this transition year collection and are not comprehensive. 

Frequently Asked Questions about ACT Data


1. Why might ACT participation rates for a school or district be above 100%? 

The numerator of the district or school’s participation rate is the number of students who recorded that specific district or school as their school when taking The ACT test. The denominator of the participation rate is the Grade 12 3rd Friday of September enrollment for the school year selected (the year the student was in grade 12). If more students reported that district or school on The ACT Exam than were enrolled in that district or school in the year selected, then the rate will be greater than 100%.

2. Why are ACT data provided by "grade group" type in WISEdash when ACT is only taken in high school grades? 

"Grade Group" type is a filter common to all WISEdash dashboards. This filter has two purposes: (1) to restrict the list in the "School" filter to schools of a single "grade group" type and (2) to summarize district and statewide data by school "grade group" type. Note that schools other than "high schools" enroll students in high school grades. For example, one "grade group" type is "combined elementary/secondary school". A "Combined elementary/secondary school" generally offers instruction at all grade levels through grade 12 in one location.

For many topics, including ACT participation and performance, data vary significantly across school "grade group" types. Identifying strengths and needs and possible explanations are critical steps in the school improvement process. Summary data combining data across all school "grade group" types are useful and are also provided, but "all types" data tend to mask strengths and needs of a specific school "grade group" type.

Definitions of Key Terms


The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. Scores on each of the four main tests (reading, English, mathematics, and science) that can be used to predict whether or not a student will succeed in that subject in college. ACT's empirical definition of college readiness is having a likelihood of 50 percent of earning a grade of B or better or 75 percent of earning a C or better in a typical credit-bearing first-year college course. ACT derived the benchmarks by relating course grades to ACT test scores for a large number of first-year students at colleges representing the full range of postsecondary institution types. Because of the wide variety of colleges a high school graduate may enter, these benchmarks are useful as general guidance.

ACT College Readiness Benchmark Scores
   Before 2012-13   Beginning with 2012-13 
English 18 18
Mathematics 22 22
Reading 21 22
Science 24 23

For more definitions, see WISEdash Glossary 

Calculating Percentages and Averages


About ACT Student Records

DPI data about participation and performance on The ACT are based primarily on student records provided by ACT. After the end of each school year, ACT, Inc., sends DPI the records for students in the ACT-determined graduating class who took The ACT at least once, either during that school year or during an earlier school year. Important:

  • ACT's graduating class data for school year X include test records for students who tested during their sophomore, junior or senior year, and who indicated they would graduate in school year X.
  • The most recent test record is included for students testing more than once.
  • If the student last took The ACT prior to grade 12, then the score is included in records for the student's ACT-determined graduating class regardless of when The ACT was last taken.
  • Test records without a composite score are not included. A student record with reading, English, mathematics, and science scores also has a composite score.
  • ACT may include test records for a single student with data for multiple school years if that student indicated they would graduate in more than one school year (rare).
  • Beginning with the graduating class of 2012-13, all students whose scores are college reportable, both standard and extended time tests, are eligible for graduating class inclusion.


Counting ACT Takers: In any given school year, the count of students as provided by ACT records adjusted by DPI to exclude any student with an identical ACT record for a previous school year and to unduplicate students found to have multiple ACT records for the same district in the given school year. School year is the ACT-determined school year of graduation for each student and may not always match the student's actual school year of graduation. Students who cannot be positively identified from the ACT record as well as students who requested to not be identified by ACT are counted as long as they can be associated with a specific Wisconsin school district or nondistrict charter school.

Percent Taking ACT: The number of ACT Takers as a percentage of 12th graders enrolled on the 3rd Friday of September.


ACT Average Score - Composite: The average composite score earned by ACT takers.

ACT Average Score - Reading, English, Mathematics, or Science: For each test, the average score earned by ACT takers.

ACT Average Subscore - Writing: The average writing subscore earned by ACT Plus Writing takers.

ACT Average Score - Combined (English/Writing): The average combined score (English/writing) earned by ACT Plus Writing takers.  This score is no longer reported for tests taken after 2014-15.

ACT Percent Meeting College Readiness Benchmark. The number of ACT Takers with scores at or above the ACT College Readiness Benchmark for a given subject as a percentage of all ACT Takers.

Other Notes about ACT Scores:

  • Reading, English, mathematics, science, and composite scores range from 1 (low) to 36 (high). Each student's composite score is the average of his/her four other test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number.
  • The ACT includes an optional writing test. Prior to the 2015-16 school year, the writing test was scored on a 2 to 12 scale. Beginning with the 2015-16 school year, the writing test was scored on a 1 to 36 scale. The composite score does not include the optional writing test.
  • Each student who takes The ACT Plus Writing receives a combined English/writing score, on a scale of 1 to 36. This combined score merges a student's performance on the English test and the writing test. The combined English/writing score is created by using a formula that weights the English test score two-thirds and the writing test score one-third.
  • ACT does not establish college readiness benchmarks for composite, combined (English/writing), or writing scores.

Data Sources

  • The ACT data are provided by ACT, Inc., of Iowa City, Iowa. All counts and scores of ACT takers are based on student records provided by ACT, unduplicated by DPI as described under "Counting ACT Takers" above. ACT records also include a limited range of student demographic data (e.g. gender and race/ethnicity) and these data are used for WINSS disaggregation purposes.
  • 3rd Friday of September enrollment counts are used as the denominator in calculating test/exam participation rates. Beginning with 2004 -05 student enrollment counts are based on Individual Student Enrollment System (ISES) Count Date (3rd Friday of September) records. Prior to 2004-05, enrollment counts came from the Fall Enrollment Collection (PI- 1290).
  • Official Wisconsin public school directory and other DPI data are used to translate ACT institution codes into valid district and school codes.
  • Beginning in 2008-09, using data from the Wisconsin Student Locator System (WSLS) and ISES, if Wisconsin Student Numbers (WSNs) can be found for students in ACT records then WSNs are used to help ensure that counts of ACT takers are unduplicated. Otherwise, DPI counts rely on ACT records; each ACT record counts as one ACT taker.
  • When grouping/disaggregating counts of test takers and scores, student demographic data come from end-of-year ISES records for the district and ACT-determined school year of graduation. Unidentified students (see Counting ACT Takers) have no ISES data so only ACT-provided gender and race/ethnicity are available and other demographics are "Unknown."

The table below summarizes difference in data sources across DPI public data tools/reports.

ACT Data Sources by Data Tool/Report
Data Element WISEdash School District Performance Report WINSS Historical Data Files
ACT Takers - District/School ACT student records except, when district/school codes provided by ACT are invalid or wrong, these data may be replaced by data in the Wisconsin Public School Directory and ISES records to determine the accountable district. Same as WISEdash. Same as WISEdash.
ACT Takers - Counts and Scores ACT student records unduplicated by matched WSNs, when available. Same as WISEdash. Same as WISEdash.
ACT Takers - Demographics ISES end-of-year district records. If no ISES end-of-year match is found, then WISEdash uses ACT-provided gender and race/ethnicity, otherwise student demographic group is "unknown." Not applicable. Disaggregation by student demographic group is not provided. ACT records for gender and race/ethnicity. No further disaggregation is provided.
12th Grade Enrollment on 3rd Friday of September - District/School, Counts, and Demographics ISES Count Date (3rd Friday of September) records. Accountable district/school is used. Same as WISEdash. ISES Count Date (3rd Friday of September) records beginning in 2004-05. PI-1290 before 2004-05.

Data Changes Over Time

  • 1995-96. ACT data were reported by gender and by race/ethnicity.
  • 2007-08. Reporting expanded to include disaggregation of results of The ACT by economic, disability, and English language proficiency status. ISES became the primary source of data about student demographics rather than ACT records.
  • 2012-13. ACT began to include scores for students tested with ACT-approved accommodations in student records provided to DPI. Results for these accommodated students were not included in the past in The ACT summary reports.
  • 2012-13. ACT decreased its science college readiness benchmark by one score point and increased its reading benchmark by one score point. Prior years will continue to reflect the previous college readiness benchmarks. These ACT college readiness benchmarks are not included in WINSS files but are included in other DPI summaries.
  • 2014-15. Wisconsin began administering The ACT to all students in grade 11. See ACT High School Assessments for details.  Final year of testing in which a Combined score is provided.
  • 2017-18. English learner status (EL Status) changed to display the value reported for the third Friday of September for this topic.

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