One of our more consistently requested reports
Years ago, I started computing scores to answer a frequent question: How do Kentucky’s non-public school students, those in private, parochial and home schools, do on the ACT.
The ACT, Inc. does not directly report scores for the non-public group of high school graduates. The ACT, Inc’s own reports only cover the overall average scores and numbers of graduates for all types of schooling; public, private and home school; combined.
Likewise, the Kentucky Department of Education currently only reports the overall average scores and numbers of test takers for public school graduates in each school year (See the department’s R19-170, “Kentucky ACT scores drop in 2019” press release for the latest example).
In earlier times stretching back to 1993, the public school only data was collected by the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability.
But, no agency has ever published the non-public school data.
So, I started to compute that information by applying a little high school algebra to the all student data from ACT, Inc. and the public school only data. And, without further ado, Figure 1 shows the long timeline of information I have assembled for the ACT performance of Kentucky’s non-public school high school graduates.
For comparison, Figure 2 shows the public school only scores by year.
A couple of notes to these tables are appropriate.
First, the ACT testing conditions in Kentucky have changed several times over the years. Prior to 2009, the test was only taken voluntarily by students who paid the test fee themselves. Generally, only those interested in college participated.
Beginning with the high school class of 2009, all students in Kentucky’s public schools had taken the ACT at state expense as 11th grade students. That created a big jump in the number of test takers but also included a notable number of students who had no college intentions and probably were not very interested in the test and, at least as a group, were not performing strongly in school, either. Thus, the ACT Composite score for the public school graduates dropped by 1.5 points between 2008 and 2009 and has remained well below the 2008 figure ever since (ACT is scored on only a 36-point scale, so small numerical differences are important).
Another important, though much smaller, impact on the ACT scores occurred in 2013. Prior to that date the ACT, Inc. scores only included results for students who took the assessment under the standard time limits. Beginning in 2013, the ACT, Inc. scores included results from some students with learning disabilities who had official permission from ACT to get extended time to take the assessment. With that official ACT permission, the resulting scores could be provided to colleges. As you can see, this 2013 reporting adjustment seems to have created a small downtick in scores as more students with disabilities were added to the mix, but the impact was not large.
With those points covered, let’s look briefly at the scores.
Figure 3 summarizes the ACT Composite Score performance for Kentucky’s Public School Students versus the state’s non-public school students for the period from 2013 on when reporting has supposedly used the same rules.
As you can see, back in 2013 the gap between the public and non-public ACT Composite Score was 3.3 points. As of the latest 2019 results, that gap was enlarged by a tenth of a point to 3.4 points. The 2019 gap is also larger than in 2018, when the split was 3.2 points. The 2019 gap is notably smaller than the 2014 gap of 4.6 points, but no different from gaps in 2015 (3.4 points) and 2016 (3.4 points) and not much different from 2017 (3.5 points).
If you look at the individual subject score gaps, you will see that the 2019 gaps are bigger by 0.1 point for all except English, where the gap is now 0.2 points larger than in 2013.
Overall, looking at the ACT scores indicates that there hasn’t been much change over the past 7 years, with the non-public school students continuously outperforming by more than 3 ACT Scale Score points on the ACT Composite, which is a big difference on this 36-point test.