The state-by-state results on the ACT college placement test have been released (see the report from Leslie Postal at the Orlando Sentinel). Florida maintains its rank of 50 (out of 51 states plus DC) on the ACT’s science section, ahead of only Mississippi.
The ACT science section is the most widely administered measurement of scientific literacy for new high school graduates in the US. In Florida, 66% of new grads took the ACT. Florida’s average score was 19.1. A perfect score on the science section is 36.
In eight states, including Mississippi, every high school grad is required to take the ACT, and the test is used as a sort of graduate-level FCAT performance measure.
It’s not inappropriate to speculate that if every high school graduate in Florida took the ACT that the state’s average science score would decline, perhaps enough to fall below Mississippi.
Florida’s very poor performance on the ACT contrasts somewhat with its “average” ranking of 11th place in science and engineering readiness (see the Huffington Post story). However, the Science and Engineering Readiness Index measures the performance of the upper crust of middle and high school students and their preparedness for a particularly demanding sector of the workforce. The ACT measures the general science knowledge of a much broader spectrum of students and does not focus on the math and science skills needed by prospective scientists and engineers.