Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kentucky edges up in 2011 ACT test reports

Data released today shows Kentucky’s performance improved slightly in ACT college entrance test results for the high school graduating class of 2011. It’s an encouraging sign that Kentucky’s schools are finally changing focus to preparing students for college and careers instead of preparing for meaningless CATS assessments.

At a press conference today in Nicholasville, Kentucky and in their web sites, the ACT, Incorporated and the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) posted data listing the combined average performance of all students in the state, both public and private.

The reports show among those states that test all, or virtually all, students with the ACT college entrance test, that Kentucky improved its position by one place in the rankings, swapping places with Tennessee (See graph below; click on it to enlarge).

Still, in a fair comparison of states where testing percentages are virtually identical, it is clear that Kentucky has a long way to go to match top-performers like Illinois and Colorado, which pioneered the policy of testing all their students with the ACT a decade ago. In 2011, those states posted ACT Composite Scores for all their public and private school students of 20.9 and 20.7, respectively. Kentucky scored more than a point lower at 19.6, a very notable difference.

For example, in Kentucky, only 28 percent of the graduates met the ACT College Benchmark score that signaled adequate preparation for a college math course in algebra. In Illinois, 42 percent were prepared to take that same college algebra course.

It is important to note that ACT performance in Kentucky cannot be validly compared to performance in most other states because those states do not conduct universal testing with this assessment (UK Center on Business and Economic Research, are you listening?).

For example, ACT participation rates for high school graduates in 2011 ranged from a low of only nine percent in Maine to full, 100 percent participation in eight states in the graph above and nearly universal participation (98 percent in North Dakota for the first time in 2011, so also included in the graph for that reason).

In most states, students voluntarily take the test, so the ACT results do not represent a valid random sample and therefore cannot be reasonably compared to states where testing is universal.

There is a lot more to discuss from the results of this very important testing program, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, you can find some of the 2011 reports from the ACT, Incorporated here.

Keep in mind, the reports released by ACT, Incorporated cover overall averages in each state for all students, public and private. We’ll talk about public school only performance in Kentucky in a later blog.

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