If 84% of the kids in your high school planning to go to college weren't fully ready for college, would you be worried?
If so, the ACT gives cause for worry. According to a report on Madison High School's ACT scores in the November 28 print edition of the Madison Daily Leader, only 16% of Madison's 2011 ACT test takers are ready for college composition, algebra, biology, and social science. According to ACT's empirically based definition of "college ready," that hardy 16% of college-bound MHS students have a 50% chance of earning at least a B in all four of those college subject areas and a 75% chance of earning at least a C.
Breaking down college-readiness by category, Madison's math readiness is the clear stinker, falling well below state and national averages. Madison beats the state and national averages for college readiness in college readiness, but the man who had a lot to do with that average, expert English teacher James "Doc" Miller, retired last year, and Madison High School chose not to replace him, reducing the high school English staff by 33%. In social studies, where Madison beat the national college-readiness average though not the state average, Madison moved a veteran high school social studies teacher to the middle school and replaced him with a new, untested social studies teacher. We'll have to wait to see what effect these staff changes have on Madison's college-readiness scores over the next five years.
Statewide, college readiness has been slowly but steadily increasing from a meager 23% back in 2003 to 29% in all four areas in 2011. I'm unable to find district-specific data to allow us to compare Madison's college readiness with other districts over time, but I'll keep looking.
ACT provides no data on college-readiness for physical education courses. The folks at ACT apparently do not share the opinion that gym is as important as science.
The ACT Profile Report for South Dakota's Class of 2011 offers this advice on interpreting ACT scores:
ACT encourages educators to measure student performance in the context of college readiness measures. The focus should be on the number and percentage of students meeting or exceeding ACT's College Readiness Benchmark Scores, a measure that is much more meaningful and understandable than an average composite score for a group of students.
You wouldn't know that from Chuck Clement's coverage of Madison High School's ACT scores:
ACT says its college-readiness metric is much more important than average composite scores. But the Madison Daily Leader makes the editorial decision to bury those numbers under the average composite scores, ACT's definition of "college-ready", the number of MHS students taking the ACT, and other exposition about the ACT itself. In other words, MDL published this story in the exact reverse order called for by the basic journalistic rule of "most important first, least important last."
The South Dakota Department of Education summarizes average composite scores and number of test takers for all South Dakota high schools. The department hides composite scores for schools with fewer than ten test-takers, so we don't get to compare Madison's composite score of 21.33 with Rutland or Oldham-Ramona. However, of the 127 schools for which average composite scores are available, 71 (56%) outscored Madison. Schools beating Madison include the following:
- Colman-Egan (21.60)
- McCook-Central (21.71)
- Sioux Valley (21.72)
- Howard (21.76)
- Dell Rapids (21.83)
- Tri-Valley (21.98)
- Harrisburg (22.18)
- Sanborn Central (22.36)
- De Smet (22.41)
- Flandreau (22.48)
- West Central (22.64)
- Arlington (22.73)
- Spearfish (22.76)
- Lennox (22.97)
- Vermillion (23.39)
Among its neighboring districts, Madison beat Baltic (21.20), Hamlin (21.19), and Chester (21.05). Madison also beat Kristi Noem's hometown of Castlewood, which ranked 107th with a 20.24.