It’s a real possibility that Florida could replace at least part of its high school testing program with the SAT or ACT, so yesterday’s release of state-by-state ACT results for the high school graduating class of 2015 is of particular interest.
One of the attractions of using a transparent brand-name national test like the ACT as the official high school standardized test of the State of Florida is that we could easily compare the performance of Florida students to that of students from other states. In Florida, 79% of the high school graduating class of 2015 took the ACT. In other states, that number ranges from 100% (13 states used the ACT as their standard high school test and required all graduates to take it) to 10% (that was Maine, but the SAT is the dominant test in the northeast, so in general fewer than one-third of the students in those states took the ACT).
So I can quote how Florida placed among the 50 states plus DC, but it’s probably more meaningful to quote how Florida places among the thirteen states in which the test was required. Of course, in Florida only 79% took the ACT, so the reader should keep that in mind. In general, Florida’s placing among the 100% states would drop if all of Florida’s graduates were required to take the ACT. The thirteen 100% states were Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.
That said, let’s go through the ACT exam section by section:
Reading: Overall, Florida was 34th out of the 51 states+DC with its average score of 21.0 (out of 36). But no 100% states beat that score, although two of the 100% states (Colorado and Montana) tied it.
English: Now the news gets worse. The English section measures writing skills. Florida’s average score of 18.9 on this section placed 46th overall. Of the thirteen 100% states, ten beat Florida. The only three 100% states that had average scores lower than Florida were Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina.
Math: Florida’s average score of 19.6 placed 44th overall. Seven of the 100% states beat Florida. The six 100% states that had math scores lower than Florida’s were North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.
Science: There is no surprise here – Florida scored poorly in science. The state’s average score of 19.5 placed 46th overall. Four of the 100% states had lower averages – Louisiana, Alabama, North Carolina and Mississippi.
Wasn’t that easy? That is not to say that reading the results isn’t painful – it certainly is painful. But using the ACT gives transparent state vs. state comparisons. In general, Florida is doing better than states like Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee. And worse than states like Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Is that good enough? I certainly hope my readers would agree that it’s not.
My message to Senators Gaetz and Legg, who seem to be the legislative drivers behind the idea of adopting national brand-name tests in place of Florida’s present exam: Keep going. Please keep going.