The ACT just released the results for its college entrance test for the Class of 2010. For the first time, ACT reports that a number of Southern states had at, or nearly at, 100 percent participation on this important test.
Here, broken down by race, are the percentages of the 2010 high school graduates in those four high participation states that the ACT says are ready for College English Composition.
(Source: ACT, Incorporated)
As you can see, Kentucky, which is shown by the medium blue bars, lags the pack – Yes, even Mississippi!!! – across every racial grouping, across the board. The only reason that Kentucky looks better than Mississippi when all students’ scores are averaged together (see the far right set of bars) is because Kentucky has very few minority students while the other states are much more diverse.
What makes this graph particularly disturbing is that Kentucky spent a fortune over the past 20 years to include portfolios in the state’s high stakes assessment and accountability program. Educators thought that was going to boost our kids’ performance in the English Composition area. Sadly, the fad idea of using writing portfolios in high stakes assessment clearly didn’t work out. The problem was that rules to prevent cheating on the portfolios wound up tying our writing teachers’ hands. Thus, a great instructional tool was corrupted into a detriment, not a plus. After nearly two decades of trying to make writing portfolios work in the assessment, Kentucky finally gave up in 2009. Sadly, it may take years for the bad impacts from the program to work its way out of our school system.
There are other exciting things going on in this graph. Perhaps the most remarkable concerns post-Katrina Louisiana and Mississippi. Both states took heavy damage in their Southern regions from that worst-damage-ever event, school buildings included. I already wrote about the Louisiana experience in an earlier blog, but this graph shows that even storm ravaged Mississippi is giving us a run for our money in English.
I need to point out that Kentucky did better against Tennessee and Mississippi on the other ACT tested subjects of math, reading and science, but charter-school-heavy Louisiana generally outshined us across all those other ACT academic test areas with their 2010 graduates, as well.