Roughly half of all high school students are already using popular AI tools, despite schools and legislators still grappling with how best to regulate the use of AI in the classroom.

The findings come from a new report by ACT, the nonprofit organization that administers the college readiness exam.

“In today’s increasingly digital age, we know that student use of AI tools is of interest to families and teachers alike,” ACT CEO Janet Godwin said. “This new research gives us a better understanding of how students really feel about using these tools in the classroom and how it affects their work. Students are already exploring how they can use AI, but there is real skepticism about AI’s ability to create work in which students can be confident.”

Just under half (46 percent) of students in grades 10 to 12 said they used tools like ChatGPT, Dall-E 2, Bing Chat, and others on a combination of school and non-school assignments at the time of the survey. In terms of where students are using AI, the recent survey found that AI tools are most commonly used in language arts, social studies, and science classes.

The survey did find a link between using AI tools and student success. Students with higher ACT Composite scores were more likely to use AI tools than those with lower scores. Fifty-three percent of students with an ACT Composite score in the top quarter of respondent score distribution used AI tools, compared with 36 percent of those in the bottom quarter.

“As AI matures, we need to ensure that the same tools are made available to all students, so that AI doesn’t exacerbate the digital divide,” Godwin said. “It’s also imperative that we establish a framework and rules for AI’s use, so that students know the positive and negative effects of these tools as well as how to use them appropriately and effectively.”

Concerningly, the majority (63 percent) of students who use AI tools reported that they found errors or inaccuracies in the generated responses.

Additionally, 62 percent of students surveyed said that teachers did not allow use of AI for schoolwork. Despite this, many students continue to use AI tools. Building on schools and teachers limiting the use of AI tools, ACT found that students differed in their opinions around banning AI tools on school-owned networks and devices. Forty-two percent of students said that their school should ban AI tools, 34 percent said they should not be banned, and 23 percent did not know what decision should be made.

In terms of students who do not use AI tools for school work, the main reasons offered included a lack of interest in AI tools (83 percent), not trusting the information AI tools provide (64 percent), and not knowing enough about the AI tools (55 percent).

“A majority of the students who didn’t use AI tools were either uninterested in or distrusted the results that the tools provided,” explained Jeff Schiel, a lead research scientist at ACT and one of the authors of the report. “Even students who used the tools for school assignments found that they were far from perfect, as a majority reported errors or incorrect information within the responses that AI provided. This shows that as knowledge and awareness of AI tools grows, information about how to use them correctly is just as important.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs