In Texas, as in states around the nation, the debate is heated about how well students perform on standardized tests. Another round of scores released by the Texas Education Agency last week – the ACT college readiness exam – added fuel to the fire.
ACT officials use the results on their tests to determine whether students have a 50 percent chance or better of earning a grade of at least a B in core college freshman classes. A perfect score, which is a composite of the four scores in English, math, reading and science, is 36.
Texas students scored 20.8 – the same as in 2011. Nationwide, the composite score was 21.1, also unchanged from 2011. Over the past several years, Texas has consistently trailed the national composite score.
However, the test results showed that Texans in the Class of 2012 were better prepared for college algebra courses than were students nationally; the 2012 math score was 21.4, compared to 21.1 nationally. Those scores mean that 48 percent of Texas students met the ACT college readiness benchmark on the math test, which indicates a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher in a college course. Nationally, 46 percent of the test takers met this benchmark.
Just three years ago, TEA touted how scores had steadily increased over the past several years. The Texas ACT composite score reached an all-time high of 20.8 in 2009, up from 20.2 in 2005.
TEA also reported that the number of Texas students taking the ACT test reached an all-time high this year, with Hispanic participation doubling over the past five years. Higher numbers of test takers should theoretically lower the composite score, according to TEA.
To Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, the overall scores are disappointing. Hammond said Texas students are unprepared for the real world after high school.
“For a long time now, I’ve been saying that only 25 percent of students were graduating career or college ready and, unfortunately, these numbers bear that out,” Hammond said in a prepared statement.
Hammond continued, “The honest truth is that our public schools aren’t preparing our students to succeed in the academic and work world that awaits them after high school. Blaming growth in the number of students taking the test is like burying your head in the sand. A high school diploma isn’t a participation ribbon; it should mean that a student is ready for the next step.”
Above is a comparison of the 2012 and 2011 results for the four components of the test along with the composite scores.