Thursday, August 16, 2001

Ky. scores on ACT dip after four years




By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — The number of Kentucky high school seniors taking college-preparatory courses increased again this year but their ACT scores declined by a tenth of a point.

        Their composite score was 21.0. It had been 21.1 for the four previous years.

        However, nearly half of those in the high school class of 2001 who took the ACT — 14,506 in all — also took a recommended “core curriculum” of college-prep classes. Fewer than two in five did so four years ago.

        For a third straight year, the average score in Kentucky as a whole was 20.1 on a scale of 1 to 36. The national average was 21.0 for a fifth straight year. The average was 20.0 for an 11-state Southeastern region that includes Kentucky.

        In all, 29,332 Kentucky graduates took the ACT, a set of tests formerly known as the American College Testing assessments. The tests are intended to assess critical reasoning and thinking skills in English, math, reading and science.

        ACT, based in Iowa City, Iowa, defines a core curriculum as containing four years of English and at least three years each of math, science and social studies.

        Unlike Kentucky, several states do not require the ACT for admission to a public college or university. Participation rates vary — 80 percent or more of graduating seniors in some states; 4 percent in Connecticut, Delaware and New Jersey. Kentucky's rate was 72 percent.

        Because of that wide range, test scores are not comparable from state to state. “They're not random samples of anything,” Edward “Skip” Kifer, a University of Kentucky testing expert, said Tuesday. “Even the numbers over time in Kentucky are suspect.”

        He said the ACT and another exam, the SAT, are primarily to help colleges and universities select students for admission.

        Neither test is directly related to high school curriculum or a good indicator of what students have experienced in high school, he said.

        The overwhelming majority of Kentucky graduates taking the ACT were white — about 25,000 in all — and almost equally divided between those who took the ACT-recommended core and those who did not. Composite scores for the two groups were 21.2 and 19.5, respectively.

        Black students made up just under 2,000 of the total tested. Their composite scores were 17.5 and 16.0, respectively. Students of Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry had the highest scores — 21.9 and 20.6 — but numbered just 331.

       



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