10 awkward questions about the ACT test

Awkward and hard to explain.

The ACT is a college entrance test with scores ranging from 11 to 36 points.
The 2008 South Carolina average score was 19.9.
The state placed 47th in national rankings.
44 percent of South Carolina high school graduates were tested.

Q: Can the persistent low scores be explained by a high participation rate?
A: No. South Carolina ranks 27th in ACT participation, below the national average.

Q: 47th place means we are not last, that’s great news right?
A: Not really, all three states we “beat” test more kids. Michigan for example requires every student to take the ACT. In Mississippi 92 percent of graduates take the ACT, more than double the South Carolina rate.

Q: How did South Carolina do compared to other Southeastern states?
A: Poorly. South Carolina was 2nd to last in the South (thanks only to Mississippi’s enormously high testing rate – see above) and well behind immediate neighbors North Carolina (21.4) and Georgia (20.6)

Q: Didn’t Jim Rex say South Carolina has made steady increases over the last five years?
A: Yes, but he’s wrong. Since 2003 our scores have only moved from 49th to 47th and the two states we “passed” now have more test-takers (Michigan has all students take the ACT and in Florida ACT participation is 52 percent).

Q: How are low income and minority children faring? Isn’t South Carolina closing the achievement gap?
A; No, participation is down and the black/white and poor/rich divides have grown, worsening one of the nation’s largest achievement gaps.

Q: If almost half of high school graduates were tested, that’s good news right?
A: No. If the state’s high school graduate rate is 55.6 percent, and 44 percent of those kids took the test, the real testing rate was closer to 24 percent.

Q: South Carolina’s “best” public school districts (Fort Mill, Lexington 1, Anderson 1, etc) are doing great, even if the state average is stagnant?
A: No, their “success” is relative, while they beat Lee, Clarendon and Dillon, their scores remain uncompetitive with middle and upper income public school students across the border in Georgia and North Carolina.

Q: Have years of funding increases help South Carolina districts raise their scores?
A: No. despite years of spending growth, an average of $11,480 per child, and huge supplements to low-income districts, there is no correlation between test scores and district spending.

Q: At this rate how soon will South Carolina catch up with the national average?
A: Never. As Rex noted, since 2004 the national average has jumped .4 points, and the state’s average has increased at the same exact rate.

Q: Can drinking ACT mouthwash in large quantities make me sick?
A: No. According to the ACT website the fluoride mouth rinse is not harmful, even in large quantities. It contains no sugar, no alcohol and “no harmful ingredients from China.”


3 responses to “10 awkward questions about the ACT test

  1. Drinking mouthwash can’t make me anymore sick than I get when I read how far behind students in South Carolina are. How are these kids supposed to go to good schools and get good jobs? I know that some will be the exception, but by and large students are going to be handicapped by this kind of low academic environment. Even our best schools aren’t up to where they should be

  2. I had no idea that only a hndful of kids were actually taking the test. That puts a new perspective on all the ways the school district excuses the low scores

  3. We will never catch up with the national average? Not the impression I’ve been getting. If our students are improving every year like they are now, we should be in good shape.

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