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June 10, 2006

"What is This Diploma Worth?"

Alan Borsuk:

But there is a crisis for many of those who graduate, too - a crisis of educational quality and rigor that generally goes unspoken, perhaps for fear that it's not politically correct to talk about it.

If students who graduate from MPS - still the largest single body of high school students in southeastern Wisconsin and by far the most diverse - are to be successful, they need to be better prepared than they are.

The diploma gap can be seen in the scores on ACT college entrance tests. The composite score for MPS students taking the tests in 2004-'05 was 17.5, the lowest in at least the last nine school years. Statewide, the average was 22.2. At Homestead High, one of the better local schools, the average was 25.

Eric Key, a math professor at UWM who analyzed the scores of incoming students on math placement tests, looked at data on the average math scores of MPS students on the ACT and said, "These scores are basically saying they're ready to start ninth grade." It's not an official judgment - ACT doesn't say what a ninth-grader ought to score - but the point stands. ACT does say what a student ought to score to have a reasonable chance of doing well in a first level college math course - a 22. The MPS average score in math: 17.

The degree to which low rigor is a problem varies not only between MPS and other districts but within MPS, where some high schools are clearly more challenging than others.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at June 10, 2006 6:16 PM
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