ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — According to a new report from ACT headquarters, scores from the 2022 graduating class show the lowest results in over 30 years.
The national average comes out to be a score of 19.8. That’s on a scale of one to 36.
ACT is a career readiness exam to measure where high schoolers are academically. Unlike the SAT, it has a science section and a writing option.
In New York State, the average is a little higher for 2022, with a score of 25.3. Experts say scores have been on the decline across the board for the past five years or so.
The ACT report said scores are evidence of “a longtime systemic failure, exacerbated by the pandemic.”
Rose Babington, Senior Director of State Partnership with ACT said you have to take the pandemic into consideration when looking at this particular graduating class.
“The data is particularly powerful this year,” she said. “As we reflect on really, the disruption that students had in their high school experience,” she said.
Babington said the content and format of the ACT never changed.
And again, she says scores were declining before the pandemic. The ACT report also said there’s less participation overall.
Mike Bergin, a local tutor who specializes in exam prep at Chariot Learning, said many colleges are also test-optional now. As a result, that’s been drawing less interest and fewer phone calls for him and his business.
“We as a nation want to look at the concept of college readiness,” he said. “[It] prepares them for better academic achievement, prepares them for success in college.”
So where do we go from here? The report goes on to say, in order to support students, it falls on policymakers, school systems, educators, and parents to pay attention to the data.
“The data really shines a light on how much more support we need to provide to all of our students moving forward,” said Babington. “Especially those facing barriers and challenges beyond their control,” she said, of students in underserved communities and backgrounds.
“We need to stop fearing tests that tell us things we don’t want to see,” said Bergin. “We should be prepared, district by district, state by state, to help students build stronger reading, writing, and math problem-solving skills.”
Locally, some districts like Penfield say their scores have stayed consistent, in the ballpark of 27.
Geneva and Greece Central Schools said there’s more interest in the SAT overall, and ACT sometimes requires students to travel to another school for the exam.
Bergin suggested the following resources for parents and families looking for help:
This year’s high school graduates scored lower on the ACT college admissions exam than any other class in the last 30 years, showing the toll pandemic-era disruptions has taken on student learning.
The national average composite school for the Class of 2022 was 19.8 — the lowest average score since 1991, according to new data released Wednesday.
“This is the fifth consecutive year of declines in average scores, a worrisome trend that began long before the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has persisted,” said Janet Godwin, the CEO of the ACT, in a statement.
Roughly 1.3 million students nationwide took the ACT during their senior year — or 36% of exact graduates. And a greater share of students took the exam more than once compared to 2021 grads.
The implications may go beyond the lower scores while applying to college.
More than 4 in 10 test-takers did not meet any of the ACT’s benchmarks for “college readiness” in English, reading, math and science — suggesting these students whose high school careers were impacted by COVID-19 for larger stretches may have arrived on campus unprepared for high-level coursework.
“The magnitude of the declines this year is particularly alarming, as we see rapidly growing numbers of seniors leaving high school without meeting the college-readiness benchmark in any of the subjects we measure,” said Godwin.
The share of students taking the ACT varied widely from state-to-state. In some states, including California and Maine, less than 5% of graduates sat for the test, the ACT data shows.
Metrics from those states come as school systems like the University of California have ended the use of the SAT and ACT in its college admissions practices.
And while some college and universities have tried so-called “test-blind” or “test-optional” admissions during the pandemic and made the change permanent, others like MIT have reverted back to using the indicator as one of many when considering an applicant.
The data also showed racial disparities — with black and Hispanic students scoring below the nationwide averages for all students. More white students sat for the exam than test-takers of any other race.
The ACT data on Wednesday is another in a growing list of studies giving a first glimpse at how students fared during the pandemic — especially those whose time in primary and secondary school was most interrupted by school closures and the trauma of the pandemic.
Results of 9-year-olds from the National Assessment of Educational Progress — dubbed “the nation’s report card” — showed last month that reading scores recorded their largest dip in 30 years, while math plummeted for the first time since the test 50 years ago.
Scores on the ACT college admissions test by this year's high school graduates hit their lowest point in more than 30 years — the latest evidence of the enormity of learning disruption during the pandemic.
The class of 2022's averagecomposite score was 19.8 out of 36, marking the first time since 1991 that the average score was below 20. What's more, an increasing number of high school students failed to meet any of the subject-area benchmarks set by the ACT — showing a decline in preparedness for college-level coursework.
The test scores, made public in a report Wednesday, show 42% of ACT-tested graduates in the class of 2022 met none of the subject benchmarks in English, reading, science and math, which are indicators of how well students are expected to perform in corresponding college courses.
In comparison, 38% of test takers in 2021 failed to meet any of the benchmarks.
"Academic preparedness is where we are seeing the decline," said Rose Babington, senior director for state partnerships for the ACT. "Every time we see ACT test scores, we are talking about skills and standards, and the prediction of students to be successful and to know the really important information to succeed and persist through their first year of college courses."
ACT scores have declined steadily in exact years. Still, "the magnitude of the declines this year is particularly alarming," ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in a statement. "We see rapidly growing numbers of seniors leaving high school without meeting college-readiness benchmarks in any of the subjects we measure."
The results offer a lens into systemic inequities in education, in place well before the pandemic shuttered schools and colleges temporarily waived testing requirements. For example, students without access to rigorous high school curriculum suffered more setbacks during pandemic disruptions, Babington said. Those students are from rural areas, come from low-income families and are often students of color.
The number of students taking the ACT has declined 30% since 2018, as graduates increasingly forgo college and some universities no longer require admissions tests. But participation plunged 37% among Black students, with 154,000 taking the test this year.
Standardized tests such as the ACT have faced growing concerns that they're unfair to minority and low-income students, as students with access to expensive test prep or advanced courses often perform better.
Babington defended the test as a measure of college readiness. "Now more than ever, the last few years have shown us the importance of having high-quality data to help inform how we support students," Babington said.
Test scores now are optional for first-year student admission at many institutions. Some colleges, such as the University of California system, even opt for a test-blind policy, where scores are not considered even if submitted.
But many students still take the tests, hoping to get an edge in admissions by submitting their scores. Tyrone Jordan, a freshman at test-optional Arizona State University, said he took the ACT and the SAT to get ahead of other students and help him receive scholarships.
Jordan, who wants to pursue mechanical engineering, said he thinks his rigorous schedule at Tempe Preparatory Academy prepared him for college, and the standardized tests helped support him and his family financially.
"All the test did for me was supply me extra financial money," Jordan said.
While Jordan was always planning to take the test, many students struggle with access or choose not to take the test since their universities of choice no longer require it. In Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee and Wyoming, everyone is tested.
It seems many American high schoolers are not just unprepared for college; it appears they also lack the basic knowledge a high school education is meant to provide.
According to a recent report examining national ACT scores, American high school students' ACT scores have dropped dramatically in the past year. The released data highlights the staggering fact that few high school students, even before the pandemic, are academically prepared to attend college. While the most exact decline shows the impact of COVID-era school closures on students' learning, consistently low scores draw attention to the fundamental flaws at the core of many of America's government-run schools.
The ACT, along with the SAT, is a college entrance exam used to measure students' preparedness for undergraduate study at American universities. The test is broken down into four sections, covering reading, math, science, and English. Each section is awarded a score from 1 to 36, and the rounded average of the four scores is recorded as the student's "composite score." The test is most popular in the South and Midwest, while the SAT is preferred in east and west coast states (though it is common for motivated students to take both tests). While many colleges have dropped the test in exact years, citing equity and diversity concerns, the ACT and SAT remain cornerstones of the college application process—as well as commonly utilized measures of whether a student is academically prepared for college.
On Wednesday, the ACT, formerly the American College Test, released a report examining test takers' performance over the past year. The average ACT score has consistently hovered just above 21 for the last decade. However, a steady decline began after the pandemic, with the average score falling to 20.3 in 2021 and 19.8 in 2022. The 2022 drop was particularly stark, as the half-point decline from 2021 marked the decade's largest one-year drop in scores. According to the Associated Press, 2022 marks the first year since 1991 that the average ACT score dipped below 20.
While exact declines in student performance may appear small, its impact is a telltale sign of trouble in American high schools. "When we're talking about over a million students, then seeing a half-point drop in one year is a big decline… We haven't seen a change like that in the last 10 years or even in the last 30 years," Rose Babington, senior director for state partnerships at ACT, tells Reason. "Seeing a change that's not just 0.1 or 0.2 points from year to year is something that is definitely, definitely something we're paying attention to. That being said," she continued, "looking back to the past decade, two decades, three decades, this is part of a trend that, while more severe this year, has been happening for a long time."
There was also a drop in the percentage of students meeting the ACT's "College Readiness Benchmarks." These benchmarks are minimum scores in each subject area, which are statistically correlated with success in freshman-level college courses. For example, a student must score at least a 22 on the mathematics section to meet the minimum level linked to success in college-level algebra. The percentage of students meeting all four benchmarks is down from 25 percent in 2021 to 22 percent in 2022 —also the largest decline of the decade. In all, 42 percent of test-takers met no ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in 2022.
"The score decline really reflects students' lack of access to a rigorous high school curriculum… The scores themselves are really a direct reflection of the standards and skills that we want students to have to be successful in their freshman college courses," Babington says. "So for us, the declines are telling this bigger story, that a lot of students don't have access to the level of rigor that we'd like them to in high school." She says this is especially true for low-income students or those from rural areas.
The low percentage of high school students meeting College Readiness Benchmarks is particularly concerning, especially as it appears that many students are attending four-year colleges despite not meeting the benchmarks. For example, in Alabama, only 15 percent of high school graduates met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in 2020, yet 30 percent enrolled in a four-year college. This indicates that a significant proportion of Alabamian four-year college students were, in at least one core subject, unready to attend college by ACT measures.
It is incredibly troubling that thousands of American college students may be academically unprepared to succeed in higher education. Not only is this worrisome for the students themselves, who may end up dropping out of school because of academic struggles (while still being on the hook for some, if not all, of their student loans), but it also spells trouble for higher education as a whole, since universities might lower the rigor of many courses to avoid pushing students out.
The exact decline in ACT scores, coupled with their already staggeringly low pre-pandemic levels, shows just how deficient American schools are—particularly the government-run public schools which educate 91 percent of American students. For more students to succeed, we need to take a hard look at public schools and begin holding them to account for their failures.
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Fair enough, but stick with us.
This one is interesting, and not NOT a big deal. The national average ACT Composite score for the high school class of 2022 was 19.8, the lowest average score in more than three decades, according to new data released by ACT.
It’s the first time since 1991 (!!!) that the average ACT Composite score was below 20.
The organization said 32% of ACT-tested graduates met at least three out of the four subject-area benchmarks in English, reading, math and science. And 22% met all four. Great news!
Less great: 42% met none of the benchmarks, which are supposed to represent the “minimum ACT scores required for students to have a higher probability of success in credit-bearing first-year college courses.”
What does that mean? Let’s break it down.
Now, many colleges are going test-optional these days. So fewer students taking the test or even not doing well on it isn’t necessarily the end of the college acceptance world. What may be more concerning, though, is how performance on the test correlates to performance in college classes once kids arrive on campus.
According to the folks that conduct the ACT, students meeting a benchmark on the ACT have a roughly 50% chance of earning a B or better and 75% chance of earning a C or better in the corresponding college course. So, a student who passes the math section, is more likely to pass a college math class.
Makes sense, right?
It’s just another indicator of both the impact COVID-19 had on learning and the lasting impact that learning loss is having on kids and their futures.
If you want to dig into the numbers further, don’t miss this week’s Extra Credit.
Need to catch up on education news from last week? Here’s your required reading.
In K-12 news:
In higher education news:
The number of students who take the ACT has declined 30% since 2018, likely for a whole host of reasons. For example, some colleges and universities no longer require tests like the ACT or SAT − that "test-optional" bit we were talking about earlier.
In the last decade, the percent of Hoosier students who took the test fell by nearly two-thirds, from 38% of the class of 2013 to just 13% this past year. Keep in mind, that the state began administering the SAT to all juniors this year. But the biggest decline actually happened last year, when the share of Hoosier kids taking it dropped by 11 percentage points.
Doesn't bode well for hopes that the state's college-going rate will rebound after the disastrous 2020 dip, does it?
The ACT organization has a whole dashboard of data you can dig into, including state-level data. FWIW, Indiana's composite score was 22.8. That's higher than the national average, but just remember it's not an apples-to-apples comparison when such a small number of students took the test here.
Dive into all the rest of the data at the ACT's website.
Until next week!
Arika & Caroline
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This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: What test scores from the '90s can tell us about the future
High school students’ ACT college admission test scores fell to a three-decade low in 2022, according to a new report released Wednesday, falling for the fifth straight year as educators grapple with ongoing learning loss made worse by remote classes during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Students in the graduating high school class of 2022 averaged a score of 19.8 out of 36, the lowest score since 1991 on the admissions test, which colleges use to gauge students’ English, reading, math and science skills.
The average score is down from 20.3 in 2021, and 20.8 in 2018, which were down from a exact high of 21.2 in 2007 (SAT college admission test scores have also dropped slightly from 981 in 2007 to 927 in 2021).
Some 32% of 2022 graduates who took the test passed three out of four benchmarks—indicating whether they have a 50% chance of earning a B or higher in English, reading, math and science—down from 36% of students last year and 38% in 2018.
From 2018 to 2022, the percentage of students who passed the benchmark in the English section dropped from 60% to 53%, while students who passed the math benchmark fell from 40% to 31%.
Only 22% of the students met the benchmark in all four categories, down from 27% in 2018.
ACT CEO Janet Godwin said the decline can’t be blamed exclusively by learning disruptions from online learning and missed classes when schools were shuttered during the Covid-19 pandemic, but by “longtime systemic failures” that were “exacerbated by the pandemic.”
“The magnitude of the declines this year is particularly alarming, as we see rapidly growing numbers of seniors leaving high school without meeting the college-readiness benchmark in any of the subjects we measure,” Godwin said in a press release,
Recent studies have linked online learning during the pandemic—when teachers were forced to completely pivot from in-person classes to lessons online—to disruptions in students’ math and reading comprehension. During that time, students were shown to have connected less with their teachers and classmates, and become distracted more easily while at home. The high school class of 2022 dealt with online learning for more than half of their time in high school, starting in March, 2020. Students who switched to online lessons from in-person classes for just a month missed the equivalent of seven to 10 weeks of math, Harvard University Center for Education Policy Research director Thomas Kane told NPR. The losses held true for younger students, as well. A National Assessment of Educational Progress report released last month found 9-year-olds’ reading levels suffered the biggest fall since 1990, while math scores had their biggest drop ever.
Disparities between racial groups also increased over that pandemic, with Black students’ math scores falling 13 points, compared to white students’ scores falling five points, according to the Nation’s Report Card. Analysts at McKinsey & Company attribute the difference between races to variation in access to education, with Black and Hispanic students less likely to have access to internet or live interaction with teachers, despite being more likely to remain in remote classrooms.
Washington D.C. students had the highest ACT score (26.9), followed by California and Massachusetts (26.5), while the lowest scores were recorded in Nevada (17.3) and Mississippi (17.8).
1.3 million. That’s how many students in the class of 2022 took the ACT test, or roughly 36% of graduating high school seniors, according to the report.
Pandemic-Era Policies Caused Dramatic Education Decline (Forbes)
Pandemic Set Students’ reading Levels Back Two Decades—Here’s Where It Dropped The Most (Forbes)
Studying for the SAT and ACT can be overwhelming for students, and that's not including the TSI -- the 'Texas Success Initiative' Assessment, which determines a student's readiness for college-level coursework.
ACT college admissions scores for the Class of 2022 hit their lowest point in more than 30 years – and educators are saying the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted classroom instruction so much that it’s taken a toll on college preparedness.
"When we look at our college readiness scores, we're taking into account SAT, ACT, and the TSIA 2 tests," said CCISD College and Career Readiness Coordinator Bryan Davis.
For CCISD, during the 2021-22 school year, 2,100 students took the SAT and 400 took the ACT. In Texas, there seems to be a much higher importance placed on the SAT versus the ACT, but Davis said colleges tend to weigh scores from each test the same.
"As a college and career counselor, now in my current role, I tried to clear up that confusion," he said.
What's the difference between the SAT and ACT? Davis said the SATs focus on reading and grammatical writing. The ACT has a science section.
"Math was an issue for Texas schooling prior to the pandemic, and after the pandemic is even higher," said the Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education Corpus Christi Treasurer Tina Butler.
The nonprofit is hoping to make higher education a feat anyone can reach. That’s why the organization is providing free help with TSI math assessments.
"One of our initiatives is to assist the public with becoming college-ready, meaning bypassing any developmental courses that they may need," Butler said.
RELATED: ACT test scores drop to lowest in 30 years in pandemic slide
RELATED: State program could help high-school students become plumbers faster
The Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education's free TSI math course is a 9-hour course, so it's three consecutive Saturdays. The first one is this weekend.
Davis encourages prospective college students to take as many tests as they can.
"Look at it this way,” he said. “Taking it even if your college that you're going to is test optional, is not going to hurt you. It's just going to help you, and help you stand out from the students who didn't take it."
For more information on TABPHE's free help with TSI math assessments, call 361-739-1367.
The Supreme Court has struck down provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before, and it now seems likely to curtail the law once again. Here's everything you need to know:
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by former President Lyndon Johnson to outlaw discriminatory voting procedures (such as literacy tests) adopted in large part after the Civil War. The landmark piece of legislation also expanded on the 15th Amendment, which in 1870 granted Black men the right to vote. The measure was later strengthened and reaffirmed in 1970, 1975, and 1982.
Within the last ten years, however, provisions of the Voting Rights Act have been struck down twice — the first time in 2013, and the second in 2021.
In Shelby County v. Holder (2013), the Supreme Court ruled two sections of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional: Section 5, which prohibited districts from changing election laws and procedures without official authorization; and Section 4(b), which defined the eligible districts as those that had a literacy test in place as of Nov. 1, 1964, and a less than 50-percent turnout for the 1964 presidential election. In a 5-4 decision, the high court determined the aforementioned sections were no longer applicable and that they inhibited the state's constitutional ability to regulate elections.
Later, in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (2021), the Supreme Court weakened Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prevents voting procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, and language. In a 6-3 decision, the court found that Arizona's policy of discarding legally cast but out-of-precinct ballots and its restrictions on mail-in ballots were in compliance with Section 2, despite criticism that the policies disproportionately impacted and disadvantaged Native American, Hispanic, and Black voters.
Now, given the court's current conservative supermajority and the case before it, there's a chance the Voting Rights Act will once again be weakened.
The state's proposed maps contain only one district with a Black majority, despite Black people comprising over 25 percent of the state's population, FiveThirtyEight reports. Critics of the maps argue they can easily be redrawn to include a second majority Black district and therefore must be. But Alabama Republicans have argued the maps are fine as-is, and that adding another majority Black district would go against race-neutral criteria they used when creating the districts.
The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled against Alabama and mandated they add another majority Black district, reports CNN. But the state appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which then agreed to take up the case this fall.
In oral arguments this week, Alabama Solicitor General Edmund G. LaCour Jr. argued that the Voting Rights Act covers only intentional discrimination against race, and that the Alabama map was "race neutral," per The New York Times and Reuters. The conservative justices seemed somewhat "sympathetic" to at least the latter argument, Reuters adds, though Justice Samuel Alito was the only conservative judge to be active in their questioning, per the Times. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh asked mostly neutral questions, while Justice Clarence Thomas said very little; Justice Neil Gorsuch didn't comment at all, the Times continues.
Much of the burden fell on the court's three liberals: Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and the newest, Ketanji Brown Jackson, CNN writes. Judge Jackson immediately zeroed in on Alabama's race-neutral argument, citing the Fourteenth Amendment as insurance "that people who had been discriminated against ... were actually brought equal to everyone else in society," and that it was "not a race-neutral or race-blind idea." Justice Sotomayor added that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act was intended to ensure that "a particular racial minority ... can equally participate."
Arguing against, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar said that a ruling in favor of Alabama would open the door for other states to gerrymander districts and render minority voters unable to elect their preferred representatives.
Though the case is ongoing and a ruling has yet to be handed down, many expect the justices to lean toward Alabama and deal a serious blow to the Voting Rights Act. The concern rises in part from the fact that five of the conservative judges, excluding Chief Justice Roberts, voted in February to restore the state's congressional map while its challenge against the lower court's decision moved forward. (That means the map at the center of the case — the one with just one majority Black district — will be used in the 2022 midterms.) FiveThirtyEight also notes the court's hostility to the 1965 law in exact decades as reason to believe it will favor Alabama.
In the long term, a pro-Alabama ruling means "states could essentially exempt themselves from the Voting Rights Act," posits the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. "Map drawers would never be required to draw a district giving minority voters an electoral opportunity except where the district also happened to comply with whatever assorted and often arbitrary 'race-neutral' criteria a state has in place at the time .... ." What's more, it might encourage states to create "race-neutral" requirements so as to specifically and covertly limit the minority vote, the center says.
"The new map creates only one district out of seven in which Black Alabamians can elect preferred candidates, despite comprising more than 27 percent of Alabama's voting-age population," argues the American Civil Liberties Union. Therefore it's "essential" the court "uphold and affirm" the Voting Rights Act once again and require that the state redraw its maps. Further, one analysis cited by FiveThirtyEight found that "if other states used the 'race-blind' approach that Alabama is advocating for, the total number of majority-minority districts would be substantially lower," FiveThirtyEight reports.
"You're asking us essentially to cut back substantially on our 40 years of precedent ...," Justice Kagan told a lawyer for Alabama. "So, what's left?"
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which took center stage Tuesday during oral arguments at the Supreme Court, prohibits a state from imposing a “standard, practice, or procedure” that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color … .”
Courts have found that states violate this provision when they draw new legislative districts that dilute the voting power of minority voters by either packing as many of these voters as possible into a single district or by splitting these voters among various other districts—practices known as “packing” and “cracking” voters.
In fact, that’s exactly what the plaintiffs who sued Alabama after the state enacted its 2020 congressional redistricting plan alleged.
Alabama lawmakers allocated the state’s seven congressional seats after the most exact census and drew one majority-minority district. These plaintiffs alleged, and a lower federal court agreed, that the state Legislature should have drawn a second majority-minority district and that its failure to do so violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Alabama, of course, disagreed and asked the Supreme Court to review the case. It agreed and heard arguments Tuesday in the case, Merrill v. Milligan.
While Alabama made sweeping claims that in determining whether a Section 2 violation occurred, the court should focus on whether the Legislature directly exhibited discriminatory intent, rather than simply focusing on any discriminatory results, several of the justices—even the conservative justices—seemed skeptical of that position.
Instead, they seemed interested in refining and clarifying the test that the court first laid out as being applicable to these types of cases in the 1986 case of Thornburg v. Gingles.
Under this test, in order to show that a Section 2 violation occurred, plaintiffs must show three “preconditions.” They have to show that (1) the minority group is “sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district”; (2) the minority group is “politically cohesive”; and (3) the majority group “vote[s] sufficiently as a bloc to enable it … usually to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate.”
Courts must then consider the “totality of the circumstances” by applying what are called the “Senate Factors,” which are a series of questions that must be reviewed and answered to determine if there was discrimination involved in what happened. Factors include whether racial appeals were used in campaigns and whether there is a exact history of racial discrimination in other areas besides voting.
But what exactly must be shown under each of the three preconditions and the Senate Factors is unclear and to what extent legitimate redistricting considerations like compactness negate those Senate Factors have been given differing and subjective interpretations by the lower federal courts.
It is also important to note that Section 2 specifically says that it does not entitle racial minority groups to proportional representation.
In other words, just because a racial group, for example, is 25% of a state’s population, does not entitle it to 25% of all elected seats. The Voting Rights Act protects equality of opportunity, not equality of results.
At the oral arguments, several of the justices homed in on Alabama’s argument that requiring the state to establish a second majority-minority district would obliterate the compactness requirement under the first prong of the test.
These justices also seemed receptive to Alabama’s claim that requiring a second majority-minority district would force the state to consider race as the predominate factor when drawing new district maps to the exclusion of being able to consider other neutral traditional redistricting factors such as keeping communities of interest together.
The Supreme Court has previously held that using race as the predominate factor in redistricting violates the one-person, one-vote standard of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
Of course, some of the justices—including the newly appointed Ketanji Brown Jackson—seemed more interested in making long soliloquies instead of truly questioning the advocates.
While not explicitly addressed, it’s important to note that Alabama’s congressional maps have remained essentially unchanged since 1992 when they were drawn up and approved by a federal court. Both the Bush Justice Department and the Obama Justice Department approved very similar maps drawn up after the 2000 and 2010 census when Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was still in place.
Regardless of what happens with this case, it’s clear that the outcome will have major ramifications when states next redraw their congressional maps. Hopefully the court will establish clear rules that will not leave legislators guessing whether they will be hauled into federal court and accused of drawing discriminatory districts.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal