We cannot let continuing evidence of the folly of test-centric education be obscured by the craziness of our polarized politics or the increasingly frequent (and devastating) proof of climate change, because, make no mistake, public education is in danger, and not just from Betsy DeVos and her privatizing schemes.
Here’s my headline: Since the non-partisan “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001 ushered in ‘accountability’ and ‘school reform,’ things have generally gone south, and students and teachers are paying the price. Students are being mis-educated and undereducated by a system that basically reduces them to a number, their score on standardized, machine-scored tests.
The latest evidence comes from ACT’s report on the “Performance of 2018 Graduates,” and it’s not pretty. The ACT score range is 1-36, with 20 being “OK.” The average score in English, 20.2, is a point lower than its high point in 2007. And the average math score, 20.6, represents a 20-year low.
But it is actually worse than that, because ACT also claims to measure
measures whether our high school graduates are ready for college…and most are not.
As Education Week’s Catherine Gewertz reported, “Math and English scores drew the attention of the ACT by another measure, too: readiness for college-level work. The ACT’s score benchmarks are correlated with the likelihood of earning Bs or Cs in credit-bearing coursework. And increasing numbers of students are falling short.
Only 4 in 10 met the math benchmark, the lowest level since 2004, and down from 46 percent in 2012. Six in 10 met the English benchmark, the lowest level since the benchmarks were introduced in 2002.”
It’s tempting to simply reprint data from ACT’s own report, merely adding emphasis here and there.
• Slightly fewer ACT-tested graduates were ready for college coursework this year than last year. The percentage of students meeting at least three of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in the four core subject areas was 38% for the 2018 US high school graduating class, down from 39% last year but the same as in 2016.
• A higher percentage of students this year than in recent years fell to the bottom of the preparedness scale, showing little or no readiness for college coursework. Thirty-five percent of 2018 graduates met none of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, up from 31% in 2014 and from 33% last year.
• The national average ACT Composite score for the 2018 graduating class was 20.8, down from 21.0 last year but the same as in 2016. Average scores in English, mathematics, reading, and science all dropped between 0.1 and 0.3 point compared to last year.
• Readiness levels in math and English have steadily declined since 2014.
• Readiness levels in reading and science have varied over the past five years, with no clear upward or downward trends.
• The average Composite score for Asian students rose this year compared to last year. Average scores for students in all other racial/ethnic groups, however, were down.
• College readiness levels remain dismal for underserved learners (low-income, minority, and/or first generation college students—who make up 43% of all ACT-tested graduates). Once again, fewer than a fourth of underserved graduates showed overall readiness for college coursework.