As we mentioned previously, more states – including Kentucky – now test 100 percent of their high school graduates with the ACT college entrance test. This allows a much better comparison of Kentucky’s ACT performance to such other states than was possible back in the days when only those students in each state that planned to go to college took this widely regarded assessment. That includes an opportunity to examine more Southern states than ever before.
In 2012 100 percent of the graduates in four Southern states took the ACT. Data for all of the graduates of public and private schools combined for these four states are summarized below, separately broken down into scores and statistics for different racial groups.
For example, in 2012 a total of 46,289 public and private high school graduates in Kentucky took the ACT and got an ACT Composite Score of 19.8. In this year, Black/African-American graduates in Kentucky numbered 3,969, nine percent of all the graduates in the state. Kentucky’s Black/African-Americans scored an ACT Composite of 16.7.
Now, here is the sobering message in these numbers.
Louisiana absolutely outperformed Kentucky across the board. That is why every score for Louisiana is shaded in green. Kentucky used to outscore Louisiana – no more!
Tennessee also did pretty well against us for most racial groups. Only Hispanics and Blacks in Tennessee scored lower than Kentucky’s corresponding graduates did, and it was very close for the Hispanics.
The real eye-catcher is that even Good ‘Ole Mississippi outscored us for whites, Hispanics and Asians.
If you look at the racial demographics in each state, you will quickly see that Kentucky has a much more white population than the other three states in the table. Because whites score notably higher than the other racial groups, when you only look at the overall scores, Kentucky outscores both Mississippi and Tennessee. However, as soon as you break things down by race to overcome that unfair demographic advantage, Tennessee out-shadows us in almost every area, and even Mississippi beats our predominant population, our white students.
(Added August 29, 2012)
Note: A sharp-eyed reader pointed out that the high school graduation rates in 2009 for Louisiana and Mississippi were notably lower (Tennessee tied our grad rate in 2009), which could make this comparison misleading for those two states.
Unfortunately, we may not see the 2012 high school graduation rates for all of these states for several more years, but the reader’s concern is appropriate pending release of that data.
Of course, another way of looking at this situation is that Kentucky might be “socially promoting” more students all the way to a diploma. Given Kentucky’s continued high levels of college remediation and the relatively low percentage of Kentucky graduates who achieve the ACT Benchmark Scores that signal adequate college preparation, this second way of thinking about the graduation rate data isn’t easily dismissed, either.
Technical Note: The ACT Profile Reports for each state can be accessed here.