I’ll be putting up several more blog posts as I go through the news release and technical data about the first 100% testing of all Kentucky 11th graders with the ACT college entrance test. But, the Herald-Leader already posted some out of context score comparisons, and comments are in order.
The Herald-Leader’s first Web release about the scores was titled “Ky. students don’t meet ACT national average.” Even after I explained to the reporter why the score comparisons were inappropriate, the Herald-Leader ran an updated story titled, “Ky. students’ ACT scores average 18.3” that still didn’t make it clear that the comparison to the national score for graduating seniors really isn’t appropriate.
So, here is the information the Herald-Leader didn’t publish.
First, the new results from the Kentucky 11th grade testing are only for public school students. Almost all of these kids took the assessment for the first time during the state-funded test period in the spring of 2008.
This is very different from the overall US graduating class sample that ACT reported on about a month ago. That US sample included students who were seniors and who in many cases had taken the ACT multiple times in both their junior and senior years. Students do that to increase their scores because ACT keeps only the highest score in each subject for each student. In addition, the US sample also includes higher scoring private and home school students.
Thus, the US average Composite score of 21.1 for the Class of 2008 isn’t really comparable to the 18.3 score for our 11th grade students who generally only took the ACT for the first time in the state-funded testing. Right now, the best comparisons are to other states’ that do 100 percent testing of public high school juniors and also report these scores separately from the graduating seniors’ results. At present, that includes the states of Michigan and Colorado. They both do 100% testing, and you can find their composite score comparisons to Kentucky in my first posting.
Anyway, don’t be depressed by the Herald-Leader’s poorly presented comparisons. We do have a very long way to go to get sufficient numbers of students ready for college, but the task may not be quite as difficult as the Herald-Leader’s article implies.
Also, the message from Colorado is that using ACT testing to get our high schools focused on what kids really need can work very nicely. Back in 2002, one year after Colorado started 100 percent testing, the composite for their 11th grade students who had valid test scores was 19.6. By 2008, it rose to 20.2. And, that happened while the proportion of lower scoring non-Caucasian students in Colorado was increasing by over 11 percent of the overall total.