Press Release

Press Release Massachusetts Students' ACT Scores Best in Nation

For immediate release:
  • Executive Office of Education
  • Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Media Contact for Massachusetts Students' ACT Scores Best in Nation

Jacqueline Reis, Communications Director, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

MaldenToday, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that Massachusetts high school students in the graduating Class of 2021 had the highest composite score in the nation on the ACT test, an annual predictive measure of college and career readiness for many high school graduates, according to results released last week.
Massachusetts 2021 public and private high school graduates who chose to take the ACT had an average composite score of 27.6 out of a possible 36, up from last year (26.0). When looking at only public school graduates, Massachusetts’ average composite score was 27.9. The national average for public and private school students was 20.3, a slight decrease from last year’s 20.6. In addition, 70 percent of Massachusetts graduates met all four ACT college readiness benchmarks, up from 59 percent last year and above the national average of 25 percent.
Massachusetts students had the highest percentage of 2021 ACT test takers meeting the math (81 percent), science (79 percent) and reading (83 percent) benchmarks and tied with Connecticut for the highest percentage of students meeting the English (81 percent) benchmark.
The ACT is a standardized test used for college admissions in the United States and includes English, mathematics, reading, science, and an optional writing test. While the majority of graduating seniors in Massachusetts historically take the SAT, some choose to take the ACT. Students can opt to take both tests, either test or neither. Both nationally and in Massachusetts, fewer graduating seniors took the ACT in 2021 than in 2020 or 2019. Nationally, the number of ACT test takers dropped 27 percent between 2019 and 2021. In Massachusetts, it dropped 64 percent, from 15,713 in 2019 to 5,676 in 2021. Approximately 7 percent of the Massachusetts class of 2021 took the ACT.
“The pandemic disrupted many people’s college preparations, but these scores show impressive work by thousands of the Commonwealth’s students,” Education Secretary James Peyser said. “We congratulate Massachusetts students, teachers and administrators and continue to support schools as they re-engage students in learning and planning for their future.”
“While these results represent only a small part of the graduating class, their accomplishments are a source of pride,” Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley said. “Whether students are taking a college entrance exam or not, I hope they embrace opportunities to take challenging coursework this year with an eye toward college or a career.”
In addition to the state’s strong performance in the aggregate, most of the state’s largest racial and ethnic groups saw higher average composite scores for the class of 2021 compared to 2020. Asian students and white students saw an increase of 1.4 points in their average composite score (from 29.0 to 30.4 points for Asians and 26.2 to 27.6 points for whites), Hispanic/Latino students saw an overall 1 point gain from 23.2 to 24.2 points, and black/African-American students had the same average composite score as last year at 20.9 points.
For more information, visit



Media Contact for Massachusetts Students' ACT Scores Best in Nation

Executive Office of Education 

From pre-school to post-secondary education, the Executive Office of Education works to connect all Massachusetts residents with an education that creates opportunities.

While Massachusetts' students rank first in the nation on many educational measures, the Executive Office of Education strives to strengthen the foundations of education reform, empower schools and educators, and develop pathways to college and careers so all students in the Commonwealth can succeed, regardless of their zip code.

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education 

ESE oversees the education of children grades pre-k through 12 in Massachusetts, striving to ensure that all students across the Commonwealth succeed.