With Senators Gaetz and Legg looking at the possibility of changing high school test requirements (see the Tampa Bay Times report), it’s worth briefly reviewing why Florida should make the ACT the official state test for accountability purposes:
- The ACT and the SAT are the tests the world looks at when making judgments about how strong a student is. And the world doesn’t care whether the ACT and SAT perfectly reflect Florida’s state standards in English and math – even though those tests are awfully close to doing so.
- If 100% of Florida’s students took the ACT (and 79% already do), parents and voters could very easily compare the performance of Florida’s students to that of students from the other dozen states where the ACT is required. Even though not all of Florida’s students take the ACT, it’s illuminating to see where the 79% of students who do take that test stand in comparison to the 13 states where the high school graduating class of 2015 was required to take the ACT: tied for first in reading (with Colorado and Montana); but behind ten of those states (Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming) on writing; behind seven of those states (Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming) in math; and behind nine of those states (Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming) in science.
- For all the concern about how well the ACT aligns with Florida’s standards, it’s worth noting that the official high school science test in Florida is the Biology end-of-course exam. This exam certainly aligns with the high school biology standards written by the state’s science standards committee back in 2007-2008 (I was a member of that committee). But it ignores the other two-thirds of the high school science standards – those in physical and Earth/space sciences. The ACT covers those other science fields, so it is accurate to say that the ACT reflects Florida’s high school science standards much better than our state’s present official high school science test for accountability. One more thing: Why have I focused on the ACT instead of the SAT for items 2 and 3? Because the SAT doesn’t have a science section, and the ACT does. Only the ACT can save Florida from the Biology end-of-course exam.