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Editorial: ACT test results offer mixed bag

Last Modified: Monday, September 09, 2013 5:53 PM

For the first time, all eligible public and private school students in Louisiana took the ACT test in 2013.

The results offered a mixed bag.

First the bad news: Louisiana students’ composite score fell from 20.3 to 19.5, a 0.8 loss. The 19.5 score ranked Louisiana eighth among the 10 states that require all students take the ACT, ahead of only Mississippi and North Carolina.

The dip, though, was anticipated, given the fact that some of the students that took the test are not college bound.

Louisiana Superintendent John White says that comparing the 2013 scores to previous years is not apples versus apples. He added that including all students is worth the decline.

He also notes that this year’s drop fared favorably to the fall-off other states experienced when they became all-inclusive with the ACT test. In fact, Louisiana suffered the smallest decline of any state making the transition.

In 2008, Michigan’s composite score fell 1.9 from 21.5 to 19.6. Colorado, Illinois and Kentucky all experienced drops of 1.5 the first year they included all students, Utah tumbled 1.1 and Tennessee dipped 1.0.

He said 3,600 more students than last year scored at least an 18 on the test, making them all eligible for college of some kind in Louisiana without having to take some remedial work.

‘‘This is worth small change in our overall score,’’ he said.

On the flip side, 15,000 of the 37,000 seniors in Louisiana taking the ACT this year scored below 18. In 2012, only 8,000 out of 26,000 seniors taking the test scored below 18.

Put another way, nearly 70 percent of seniors in 2012 scored 18 or above in 2012, compared to nearly 60 percent this year.

There’s also the state’s track record of improvement has been slow, but gradual. From 2004 to 2012, Louisiana’s composite ACT score increased from 19.8 to 20.3.

The all-inclusive ACT test policy resulted in a step back for Louisiana students’ composite score.

Looking ahead, it will still provide a measuring stick for the teacher evaluations and tenure, charter schools and waiver program that are the hallmarks of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s public education reform.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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