The issue of curriculum quality and rigor continues to generate attention. P-I:
The good news is that the high school class of 2006 posted the biggest nationwide average score increase on the ACT college entrance exam in 20 years and recorded the highest scores of any class since 1991.
The bad news is that only 21 percent of the students got a passing grade in all four subject areas, including algebra and social science.
“The ACT findings clearly point to the need for high schools to require a rigorous, four-year core curriculum and to offer Advanced Placement classes so that our graduates are prepared to compete and succeed in both college and the work force,” Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in Washington, D.C.
Alan Borsuk has more:
Wisconsin high school graduates are better prepared to succeed in college than students nationwide – but that means only that more than 70% of state students are at risk of having trouble in one or more freshman-level subjects while the national figure is almost 80%, according to ACT, the college testing company.
The message still isn’t getting across,” Ferguson said in a telephone news conference. If students want to go to college and do well, they have to take high school seriously and take challenging courses, he said.
ACT results showed that students who took at least four years of English and three years each of math, science and social studies in high school did substantially better on the tests (22.9 in Wisconsin, 22.0 nationwide) than those who took lighter loads in those core areas (21.0 and 19.7, respectively).
Elizabeth Burmaster, Wisconsin’s superintendent of public instruction, said she believes that if schools in Wisconsin stay focused on efforts such as early childhood education and small class sizes in the early grades, combined with strong academic programs in middle school and high school, achievement will go up and racial and ethnic gaps will close.
Individual state data is available here.
Burmaster’s statement, along with the ACT information will increase the attention paid to curriculum issues, such as the ongoing questions over the Madison School District’s math program (See UW Math professor Dick Askey’s statement on the MMSD’s interpration and reporting of math scores). Will we stick with the “same service” approach? This very important issue will be on voters minds in November (referendum) and again in April, 2007 when 3 board seats are up for election. See also the West High School Math Faculty letter and a recent open letter to the Madison School District Board and Administration from 35 of the 37 UW Math Department faculty members. Vaishali Honawar has more.
The Madison School District issued a press release on the recent ACT scores (68% of Wisconsin high school graduates took the ACT – I don’t know what the MMSD’s percentage is):
Madison students who took the 2006 ACT college entrance exam continued to outperform their state and national peers by a wide margin, and the scores of Madison’s African-American test takers increased significantly. Madison students’ composite score of 24.2 (scale of 1 to 36) was higher for the 12th straight year than the composite scores of Wisconsin students and those across the nation (see table below). District students outscored their state peers by 9% (24.2 vs. 22.2,) and their national peers by 15% (24.2 vs. 21.1).
Compared to the previous year, the average ACT composite score among the district’s African-American students increased 6% — 18.8 vs. 17.7 last year. The gap between district African-American and white student ACT scores decreased this year. The relative difference this year was 24% (18.8 vs. 24.8) compared to 30% last year.
Scores also increased this year for the district’s Asian students (22.1 to 23.0) and Hispanic students (21.5 to 21.8).
The Madison School District recently published this summary of student performance vs other similar sized and nearby districts (AP, ACT and WKCE) here. Madison’s individual high schools scored as follows: East 22.9, LaFollette 22.1, Memorial 25.1 and West 25.5. I don’t have the % of students who took the ACT.
I checked with Edgewood High School and they have the following information: “almost all students take the ACT” and their composite score is “24.4”. Lakeside in Lake Mills averaged 24.6. Middleton High School’s was 25 in 2005. Verona High School’s numbers:
222 students took the ACT in 2005-2006.
Our composite score was 23.6 compared to the state at 22.2
87% of test takers proved college ready in English Composition (vs. 77%)
66% of test takers proved college ready in College Algebra (vs. 52%)
77% of test takers proved college ready in Social Science (vs. 61%)
45% of test takers proved college ready in Biology (vs. 35%)
37% of test takers proved college ready in all four areas (vs. 28%)
(#) as compared to the state %
Waunakee High School:
Score HS Mean (Core/Non-Core)
Composite 23.3 (24.3/21.5)
English 22.5 (23.9/19.5)
Mathematics 23.2 (24.2/21.8)
Reading 23.3 (24.1/21.5)
Science 23.7 (24.4/22.7)
McFarland High School’s 2006 Composite average was 23.7. 110 students were tested.
UPDATE: A few emails regarding these results:
- On the Waunakee information:
In the Waunakee information I sent to Jim Z, our mean for the Class of 2006 comes first, followed by the core/non-core in parentheses. So, our mean composite score for our 157 seniors who sat for the ACT was 23.3, the mean composite for those completing the ACT suggested core was 24.3, the mean composite for those who did not complete the core was 21.5.
With ACT profile reports, the student information is self-reported. It’s reasonably accurate, but some students don’t fill in information about course patterns and demographics if it is not required.
Please let me know if there are any other questions.
- McFarland data:
It appears that Jim Z’s chart comparing scores uses Waunakee’s “Core score” as opposed to the average composite that the other schools (at
least McFaland) gave to Jim Z.. If Jim Z. wishes to report average “Core” for McFarland it is 24.5. Our non-core is 22.2 with our average composite 23.7.
- More on the meaning of “Core”:
Probably everyone is familiar with the ACT definition of core, but it’s 4 years of English, and three years each of math, science, and social studies. ACT is refining their position on what course patterns best position a student for undergraduate success, however.
Additional comments, data and links here