State and national ACT scores were released today. At the national level, scores on the college admission exam were flat, while Georgia, where more teens are taking the ACT, saw a slight increase. (SAT scores will follow in a few weeks.)
A record 52 percent of the the 2012 U.S. high school graduating class took the ACT. More than a fourth (28 percent) did not meet any of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in the testing areas of English, mathematics, reading and science; 15 percent met only one of the benchmarks, while 17 percent met two. Only 25 percent of tested 2012 grads met all four ACT benchmarks, unchanged from last year.
“Far too many high school graduates are still falling short academically,” said ACT Chief Executive Officer Jon Whitmore in a statement. “We need to do more to ensure that our young people improve. The advanced global economy requires American students to perform at their highest level to compete in the future job market and maintain the long-term economic security of the U.S.”
The flat ACT performance and the slight increase in the test score gap between racial groups over the last five years prompted a rebuke from FairTest, which said the lackluster scores were evidence that test-based strategies to boost academic performance and narrow achievement gaps represented “a sweeping, expensive failure.”
“Rational policy-makers would look at the evidence and change course,” said FairTest public education director Bob Schaeffer in a statement. “Yet, instead of abandoning what is clearly the wrong track for improving U.S. schools, policy-makers are actually putting more weight on standardized tests.”
Schaeffer cites U.S. Department of Education waivers of “No Child Left Behind” that now require states to use tests for more high-stakes purposes, including evaluating teachers. “Why are policy-makers doubling down on a failed strategy? How much more data do they need to understand this approach is not working?” he said.
In talking about the scores with the AJC education editor, we discussed the perception that some high school students fare better on the ACT than the SAT. She may have a reporter examine that issue later this year. My own research has shown that the scores generally align; a student who scores well on the ACT will have commensurate scores on the SAT. Increasingly, Georgia parents have their kids take both tests.
Georgia high school students saw a small increase this year on their ACT results as the national average showed no change, according to the 2012 ACT report. One-year increases were seen in the composite scores (+0.1), reading (+0.2) and science (+0.2). English results were flat and math results decreased slightly (-0.1). Overall results in Georgia increased this year even as the number of students tested increased from 47% in 2011 to 52% in 2012.
“I am pleased to see our students’ scores headed in the right direction and the gap closing between Georgia and the national average,” said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge. “I think it is significant that our participation rate on the ACT increased considerably and we still have growth in overall scores.”
ACT Composite Scores
Fifty-two (52) percent of Georgia’s 2012 graduating seniors (47,169 students) took the ACT and had an average composite score of 20.7. This average is up .1 percentage point from last year’s 20.6 and .4 percentage point less than the national average of 21.1.
Georgia students are also outperforming the national average when scores are broken down by race. The 2012 ACT report shows that African-American students had an average composite score of 17.6, considerably higher than the national average of 17.0. Hispanic students had an average composite score of 19.9, a full point higher than the national average of 18.9. White students had an average composite score of 22.8, .4 percentage point higher than the national average of 22.4.
“It’s clear from this report that we outperform the national average when our results are broken out by subgroup,” said Superintendent Barge. “However, we still have gaps between subgroups that we must address. If we’ re going to close the gap with the nation then we must close the achievement gap between our subgroups.”
The report reveals that more of Georgia’s students (10,377 in 2012 compared to 9,015 in 2011) demonstrated college and career readiness this year in all four areas (English, reading, mathematics, and science) of the test.
“I’m very pleased that more of our students are demonstrating college and career readiness,” said Superintendent Barge. “As we implement the Career Pathways initiative, I believe students will begin seeing more relevance in courses they are taking, which will translate into an even higher percentage of our students scoring at college and career ready levels.”
The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks are based on the actual grades earned by students in college, define college and career readiness, and report student performance results relative to that goal.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog