It used to be inappropriate to do much state to state ranking with the ACT scores because the percentage of high school graduates in each state that took this college entrance text varied dramatically. Particularly in states where the SAT is preferred, relatively few students took the ACT, making comparisons to Kentucky’s performance impossible.
That is changing now, as more states are testing all of their graduates with the ACT. According to a 2013 score summary from the ACT nine states tested all of their graduates, and two others, Mississippi and North Dakota, nearly did the same. That makes it possible to reasonably compare scores across those high participation states.
However, a problem I have discussed in this blog before, one found in state-to-state comparisons with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also applies to state-to-state comparisons with the ACT. Due to highly variable student demographics, you really must disaggregate the data by race to get an idea about what is really going on.
So, let’s examine how Kentucky’s dominant racial group, its white students (76 percent of all grads in 2013), performed against whites in the other ACT high participation states. The data considered covers all students, public, private and home school averaged together.
This first graph above shows the percentage of students in each of the high participation states that met or exceeded the ACT College Readiness Benchmark Score in English in 2013. This turns out to be Kentucky’s best performance, but it clearly isn’t something to be excited about. Only two states performed worse. Even more disturbing, Mississippi did notably better than Kentucky did!
Also note that Louisiana, that big charter school state, ranks near the top of the pile for English.
As I did in an earlier post, I must mention that North Carolina, which used to be an “SAT state,” just started testing all of its students with the ACT this year. As that state’s students get more experience with the ACT, I suspect we will see noted improvement.
After nearly a quarter of a century of education reform in Kentucky, the only state we surpassed in math is Good ‘Ole Mississippi. Also, fewer than one out of three of our high school graduates has an adequate preparation for postsecondary math requirements. That is really disappointing.
Note that in math North Carolina’s white students smartly stepped away from Kentucky’s whites even though their students are in the first year of 100 percent testing with the ACT.
Reading is a key skill for any type of postsecondary program, even non-technical ones. Our tail end placing for this key skill is REALLY disturbing.
Sadly, with fewer than one out of two graduates able to read adequately for postsecondary education purposes, it seems likely our high levels of college remediation and our relatively low level of college completion are not about to suddenly change with the high school graduates from 2013.
We only can say thank goodness for Mississippi in this academic area of the ACT. This comparison places all the “stuff” we have heard about how well Kentucky performs on NAEP science in sharper contrast. That is only true when we look at overall average scores. As soon as we stop playing demographic games (that essentially match our whites against poor blacks and Hispanics in other states) and match up whites against whites, that fiction quickly starts to come apart.
PREPARATION ACROSS ALL 4 SUBJECTS
This final graph shows the deplorably low percentage of graduates in 2013 who met the college readiness benchmarks across all four subjects that the ACT tests. Once again, I must remind that this includes all of Kentucky’s private and home school students, who significantly outscore our public school students. Without that boost, Kentucky’s percentage of 2013 public school graduates who are fully ready for a typical US college would probably be less than one in five.
Kentucky’s postsecondary system will probably nurse a notable number of these unprepared high school graduates along, just as has been happening for some time, but the extra expense to both students and taxpayers will be significant.
The data source for the benchmark scores are Tables 3.1 to 3.5 in each state’s 2013 ACT Profile Report. They are all on line at links found here.