Kansas high school students in the class of 2017 recorded lower scores than last year’s class on the ACT’s reading, English, math and science examinations to reveal a five-year low in the percentage of test-takers ready for college, officials said.

The composite ACT score among Kansas graduates fell from 21.9 in 2016 to 21.7 in 2017, but the result was still above the national average of 21. The number of Kansas students taking standardized test was the largest in the past seven years.

“We know we have to better prepare our students both academically and socially (or) emotionally for life after high school,” said Randy Watson, the state’s education commissioner.

Average scores of Kansas students by subject comparing 2017 to 2016: English, 21.1, down from 21.3; reading, 22.3, down from 22.5; math, 21.3, down from 21.5; and science 21.7, down from 21.8.

“Unfortunately, this year’s ACT results are further evidence that Kansas educational progress has stagnated at best and begun to decline at worst,” said Mark Tallman, of the Kansas Association of School Boards. “Kansas school leaders have warned for years that failing to provide adequate funding with student enrollment rising and becoming more diverse will erode the quality of education.”

In Kansas, the portion of high school graduates meeting all four ACT college-ready measures declined from 31 percent in 2016 to 29 percent in 2017. On this metric, the national average is 27 percent.

The percentage of black students in Kansas meeting three of four benchmarks fell to 13 percent. In terms of Native American, 26 percent showed proficiency in three areas, while Hispanics had 24 percent. Whites had 51 percent meet the benchmark in three subjects.

Markers of college readiness for each subject are: English, 18; reading, 22; math, 22; and science, 23. The measure was established to represent a level of academic prowess needed to have a 75 percent chance of obtaining a “C” or better in first-year college courses.

Watson said the Kansas State Board of Education was dedicated to boosting the number of students entering and completing two-year or four-year college degrees, earning a trade-skill certifications or entering the U.S. military. A Georgetown Center on Education and Workforce study predicted 71 percent of jobs in Kansas would require a certificate or degree by 2020.

“This is critical to meet the predicted workforce education requirements in Kansas,” he said.

About 73 percent of Kansas graduates took the ACT, with actual numbers rising from 24,488 in 2016 to 24,741 in 2017. Since 2013, the quantity of students participating in the exam increased 2 percent.