Virginia Students Out-Perform on ACT College-Readiness Test

Virginia students traditionally have out-performed their peers nationally in  ACT college-readiness tests, but the margin widened for 2107 graduates, according to data released this morning by the Virginia Department of Education.

The gains applied to public schools, private schools, and home schooled students across the board. Virginia public school students achieved an average composite score of 23.7 on the ACT, compared with 21.0 for graduates nationwide. The composite score for all Virginia students, including home schoolers and private school grads, was 23.8. The highest possible score is 36.

“Nearly twice as many Virginia students take the ACT today than ten years ago, making it an increasingly important indicator of how well the commonwealth’s public schools are preparing young people for the future,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said in a press release. “The latest results continue a long-term trend of higher achievement and increasingly well-prepared graduates.”

Bacon’s bottom line: The improved scores of Virginia students is impressive, especially against the backdrop of flat scores nationally. Somewhere, somehow, Virginia is doing something right for its college-aspiring students. Given the fact that the gains applied to public schools, private schools, and home-school students alike, it’s not clear who or what deserves the credit. In any case, the ACT scores apply only to the 29% of the Virginia student population that takes the tests, not to the other 71%.

The VDOE press release did not break down scores by racial/ethnic category. However, a Wall Street Journal article today notes that so-called “underserved” student populations — low-income, racial minority, or first-generation college student — continued to perform poorly nationally.

More than four of five test takers who had all three of those “underserved” characteristics, as ACT calls them, showed college readiness on one or none of the exam benchmarks in English, reading, math and science. Only 9% met the benchmark in at least three of the four areas. That compares with 54% for test takers who didn’t mark that they had these characteristics.

Given the fact that a similar gap persists as measured by other indicators, it is likely that similar racial/ethnic gaps would show up in Virginia ACT scores. Perhaps VDOE didn’t have access to that data on a statewide level. Or perhaps the department chose not to report the data because it didn’t look good. The public needs to know if the problem is getting better (which would suggest that what we’re doing to address disparities is working), or is getting worse (which would suggest that what we’re doing is not working).

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One response to “Virginia Students Out-Perform on ACT College-Readiness Test”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    All Virginia schools both public and private ..went up?

    hmmm… man.. this sounds like another Dominion narrative..


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