New data on ACT college entrance test scores for 2009 are starting to trickle out. About a week from now, the ACT, Inc. will release a nationwide report about how high school graduates in all states performed (scheduled to be released on August 19).
However, two days ago scores from special, Kentucky statewide 11th grade testing were released, and you can find some of that 11th grade ACT data on the freedomkentucky.org Wiki site.
Jim Waters had some initial comments on those 11th grade results, but the data reveal a lot of problems beyond the overall message that less than half of our students are college-ready, so let’s discuss the new scores in greater detail.
One of the major disappointments of Kentucky’s education reform, which celebrates it’s 20th anniversary next year, is that promises to fix racial and disadvantaged student achievement gaps have not been kept. That is dramatically clear in the new ACT data.
Overall, 11th grade White students in Kentucky got an ACT Composite score three full points higher than the state’s Black 11th graders achieved, 18.6 versus only 16.6. On the 36-point ACT scale, that is a huge difference.
Even worse, although the gap actually narrowed slightly for the two racial groups between 2008 and 2009, that only happened because the White ACT Composite score actually dropped 0.3 points in that one-year interval. That is not the way we want to reduce gaps! In addition, with Whites making up the vast majority of our school enrollment, a drop in their scores has dramatic implications for the overall ability of the state to generate more college graduates at a time when this is a widely recognized and vital need.
Blacks aspiring to go to college especially at disadvantage
While it is obvious that some 11th grade students have no interest in going on to college, the ACT provides separate scores for those students who clearly demonstrate an intention to go to college by taking the core course load that colleges desire. While 58 percent of Kentucky’s 11th grade Whites took the core courses colleges desire in the 2008-09 school year, only 41 percent of the state’s Blacks did. And, even though a notably smaller percentage of Blacks took the college curriculum, their ACT Composite score gap was larger compared to college bound Whites than the overall gap was for all students.
Males falling further behind
In 2008 the female – male ACT Composite score gap for Kentucky’s 11th grade students was only 0.5 points. That swelled to a 0.7 point gap in 2009 when female scores rose slightly while male scores dropped slightly. This adds to other evidence that the Kentucky Education Reform has been boy unfriendly.
One final note: the data released on Kentucky 11th grade testing is not fairly comparable to the data for 2009 graduates that the ACT will release in a week. Because only a handful of states do 100 percent testing of 11th grade students, blanket state to state comparison of ACT scores isn’t appropriate. So, watch out for other media outlets that try to do such simplistic comparisons. We’ll be talking more about that as the rest of the ACT data becomes available, so check back here for the “right stuff.”