Searching for the perfect high school or school district for you or your child? You've come to the right place. When looking at different high schools or different school districts, average ACT score can be a helpful comparison tool.
Average ACT score can help estimate the quality of education and quality of students at a particular high school or school district. There are a few different ways to find average ACT scores by high school or district. I’ll explain the different methods and why you should care about average high school ACT scores.
How to Find a District or High School’s Average ACT Score: Your Options
Below are four methods for tracking down a public school’s average ACT score. The best option for you will depend on your home state:
- Search the Department of Education website. (Note: This only works for PUBLIC high schools. Also, this is the ONLY way to find average ACT scores by school district.)
- Search the school’s website (however, not all schools publish this information on their websites).
- Email a school administrator.
- Google search, "[High School Name] Average ACT Score."
The best method is to use the Department of Education’s website for your state. Later on, I’ll explain how to find a district’s or specific public high school’s average ACT score using this method. This is the only way to guarantee you’re getting up-to-date, correct, unbiased information.
This method will not work for the following states:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey*
- New Mexico
- New York*
- North Carolina*
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island*
- South Carolina*
* While these states don't provide ACT data, they do provide SAT data by high school. For information on how to find SAT data, read our guide to SAT scores by school.
For private high schools or in states listed above, you could try to look on the high school’s website, do a Google search, or send an email to an administrator at that high school asking for the average ACT score.
Be aware that there may be obstacles to finding ACT scores by high school. Websites and internet searches can often have outdated information (i.e. ACT score averages from three years ago) or not even post this data. Additionally, administrators may also give you outdated information if they haven’t seen the most recent statistics. Also, it may take some administrators a while to respond to your request if they have a busy schedule or are on summer vacation.
How to Use the Department of Education’s Website to Find ACT Scores by High School or District
Do a Google Search for your state’s Department of Education. Search “[State Name] Department of Education.” I did so below for Florida’s Department of Education. The state’s Department of Education website will usually be the first search result:
After opening the Department of Education website, you should see a search box in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
In this box, type “ACT score” or “ACT data.” That search should bring up the ACT data for the state (see below).
Typically the first result will be the one you want to view. Select the option that will provide you access to the most recent ACT data. The first link above says ACT, ACT, and AP Data while the second link says ACT, ACT, and AP Data Archive.
This suggests the first link will have the most recent data while the ACT, ACT, and AP Data Archive most likely provides the data from previous years. The first link brought me to the page below:
NOTE: for Florida, the most recent ACT data was from 2013. Other states may have 2014 ACT data available already.
If you’re looking for data for a specific public high school, select the option that will show you ACT School Means. It will probably not be labeled the same for your state, but it should have “ACT” and “School” in the title.
This link will provide you with school specific data. If you’re looking for data to compare different districts, select the ACT District Means spreadsheet. The district option only provides you with the average ACT scores for each district in the state (without breaking it down by high school).
You’ll have to download the spreadsheet to your computer (which it should do automatically when you click on the link). A large excel spreadsheet should open that looks something like this:
The exact information this document shows will vary by state, but all of them should list high school names and corresponding ACT scores (typically as a composite score). Sometimes the state lists both the average composite score and the average section scores (English, Math, Reading, and Science). The Florida document does this, and it also provides information on the number of 12th-grade students enrolled, the number of ACT test-takers, and the percentage of ACT test-takers by high school.
To find the average ACT score for the public high schools you’re interested in, type Command + F function on your keyboard to search the spreadsheet.
If you’re unable to get to this ACT data through your state’s Department of Education website, you should contact your state’s Department of Education (the contact information should be on their website). Usually, the Department of Education has a specific phone number or email to contact if you’re in search of data.
If you’re unable to get in contact with the Department of Education or if you want ACT data for private high schools, then you should email or call the high school you're interested in.
Why Care About a High School’s Average ACT Score?
You should care about a high school’s average ACT score because higher ACT scores can indicate a better quality of education and a better quality of student at that school.
While the ACT explicitly measures a student’s academic ability, it can also measure how much a student cares about his or her education. ACT preparation can drastically change a student's score. If a student has slightly above-average intelligence, he or she can get a very high or even perfect ACT score with enough practice. Therefore, a student’s ACT score reveals both their academic ability AND how hard they’re willing to work.
Since the ACT measures academic ability and your education is largely responsible for what information you learn, the better your education, the better you’ll perform on the ACT. Though, as I said above, your ACT score is also affected by how much you prepare for the test.
If a high school’s average ACT score is above-average, I’d venture a guess that the students at that school are more invested in their education and more committed to getting into a good 4-year college than students at other schools. These students likely study more and invest more time in preparing for the ACT, and they are therefore more likely to get accepted into selective colleges in the future.
If you're concerned about your child receiving a quality education and being surrounded by hard-working students, consider sending them to a school or school district with a higher average ACT score.
Devil’s Advocate: Why Shouldn’t You Rely Too Heavily on Average ACT Score?
While a school’s average ACT score can give an estimate of the quality of education and caliber of students at that school, average ACT score may not tell you the full story.
For instance, some public high schools have magnet (or gifted) programs that you apply to that are separated from the “regular” track at that high school. These programs often have a higher caliber of student and better teachers than the rest of the school.
My public high school had an International Baccalaureate magnet program. The admissions requirements for this program were high while there were no requirements for students on the “regular” high school track. This program had better teachers who only taught IB classes. For these reasons, I’d guess that the average ACT score for IB students was higher than the average ACT score for students on the “regular” high school track.
However, the published average ACT score for my high school does not distinguish between IB and non-IB students. Instead, the number incorporates the scores of all students at the school. For this reason, you can’t figure out what the caliber of education and student will be within this specific magnet program at my school.
Another reason average ACT score should not worry you too much is that a big part of your ACT score is how much effort you put into preparing for the exam. If you ultimately decide to attend a high school with a low average ACT score, you’re not necessarily going to have a low ACT score yourself. It doesn’t matter which high school you attend, you can still work hard, learn the test format and strategies, and achieve a high score on the ACT.
That being said, you should try to attend the high school with the highest caliber of students and teachers. That way, you receive the best education you can, you’ll be challenged in school, and you’ll be well prepared for the ACT.
Trying to decide where to go to high school? Consider an IB school.
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As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.