Thursday, August 22, 2013

ACT Scores Show Educational Deficiencies

About 1.7 million students (or 54% of America's graduating seniors) took the ACT test this year, and those scores, because of the large number of students taking the test, can be used as a pretty good indicator of how well the nation's high schools are doing. In fact, those scores should be a little better than how the average student is being educated, because most of the students taking the test are those who think they are ready to enter college.

The test grades students in four areas -- English, reading, math, and science. Scores range from 1 to 36 in each of the subject areas, and each has a benchmark score (the score which would generally give a student a 75% chance of achieving a "C" or a 50% chance of getting a "B"). The benchmark for English is 18, for reading it is 22, for math it is 22, and for science it is 23. Reaching the benchmark score means the student is ready for college without the need for any remedial classes.

One would think if our high schools were doing a good job of educating our students, then a majority of those students would be able to meet all four benchmark scores. Unfortunately, that is not the case -- not even close. A paltry 26% of the students taking the test reached the benchmark score in all four areas. And even worse, about 31% (nearly 1 out of 3) of the high school graduates could not reach the benchmark score in any of the four subject areas.

Students did the best in English with 64% meeting the benchmark. In reading and math, 44% reached the benchmark. In science, about 36% reached the benchmark. About 69% of graduates reached the benchmark in at least one area.

Folks, these are not results to be proud of -- with only 1 out of 4 high school graduates being ready to do college work without at least one remedial class. While I applaud the colleges that offer remedial classes to those who want a higher education, the truth is that those classes should not have to be necessary for 74% of high school graduates.

Our schools are failing our students. And while many politicians would like to do so, I don't think most of the blame can be laid at the feet of teachers. Even the best teacher's efforts can be frustrated by classes that are too large, a shortage of supplies & textbooks, a lack of support from school board & administration, parents that don't care, a crumbling infrastructure, and politicians that insist on continuing to cut funding for education (while insisting on the teaching of religion and propaganda, instead of science, government, and history).

It is time we stop just trying to punish teachers, and realize that education is the job of all of us (even those like myself who no longer have a child in school). We need to make sure our schools are adequately funded, even if it means a tax hike. We can always find more money to spend on the military (in spite of their already bloated budget) and our prison system (because we think the answer to our problems lies in always locking up more people) -- and yet we constantly whine that too much money is being spent on education (which has always been the best vehicle for social mobility and a better society). Our priorities are skewed, and we need to fix that.

And it certainly wouldn't hurt to elect more people to state and local school boards that care more about education than religion, politics, or money. That's what I think. What do you think?

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