Press "Enter" to skip to content

16% of College-Bound Madison HS Grads Fully Ready for College

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.

2011 ACT College Readiness for Madison HS, South Dakota, and United States
2011 ACT College Readiness for Madison HS, South Dakota, and United States (click to enlarge)

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:

Chuck Clement, "Madison Students Average 21.3 on ACT," Madison Daily Leader, 2011.11.28, p. 1
(click to enlarge)

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.


  1. Steve Sibson 2011.12.05

    "If 84% of the kids in your high school planning to go to college weren’t fully ready for college, would you be worried?"

    Looks like a misuse of resources in K-12. More money is not teh solution. How about less entertainment and indoctrination of the New Age Theocracy?

  2. larry kurtz 2011.12.05

    It certainly failed you, Steve.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.12.05

    But Steve, less money isn't the solution, either. Neither is continued prattle about New Age Theocracy. Do you talk about things like that when you visit with Joe Graves about education in Mitchell?

  4. Steve Sibson 2011.12.05

    Cory, yes I do. I even told the South Dakota Board of Education. We are implementing an International agenda based on the New Age religion of those who want to issue in a New World Order. I have providing links on this web site that back up the this truth.

    Again, why through more money so that the problem becomes bigger, just like increasing the size of government so that the Monopolistic Capitalist, who control the government, have even more power to use to centralize the wealth. And don't think that the wealthy are against education...see Rockelder Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the Carnegie Foundation. Why did the Chamber of Commerce join with the NEA to oppose IM10 in 2008?

    And Cory, I do believe you are for the small guy. I just trying to help you understand the source of the small guys' problems.

  5. Neal McIntyre 2011.12.05

    I am very concerned about the results of the ACT tests for Madison. If the Madison School were a company with such a high defect rate it would not continue long in business. I also concerned that there has been little public concern or discussion concerning these statistics. I would hope that the community has as much interest in academics as they do in sports. The new gym and renovations will not make much difference on the scores even though a lot of money will be spent. Perhaps the board should consider some staff and administration changes and set some goals for improvement particlarly in the science and math fields. Madison should do much better given all factors to be considered. I would hope that we would see more comments on this important matter and I would hope the administration would lay out a plan for improvement. Just throwing money at this problem will not improve matters. In the Civil War President Lincoln went through a number of Generals before he found one U.S. Grant, who was able to get the job done with material he was given, perhaps our board should keep this in mind in the future. This is important Madison I hope some action will be taken.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.12.05

    I am surprised that Neal is the only local person I've heard raise concerns about this issue. When our gym is too small, by gum we get bond issues and fundraisers. But when our ACT scores are too small, what public response do we get? Is our school board bringing in an architect to design new curriculum?

    One of the big arguments for the new gym was that kids deserve to have their graduation ceremony in their own high school. I'd like to see more attention to making sure they can graduate from their chosen college.

    And Steve, nothing you said offers practical direction to any local school board on how to address college readiness.

    Larry, I tend to agree with you and our governor that many students think university is the only way to go when they might do better to go to vo-tech. These test scores may hint at that bad fit between a lot of college-bound ACT takers and their skill set.

  7. Neal McIntyre 2011.12.06

    It has been a few days since the article came out in the paper, and Corey put it on his blog. I had expected to see a defense by the administration, a demand for more money for education, perhaps a comment by a board member, possibly a comment by a parent either defending the status quo, or perhaps questioning how this could happen and making a request for something to be done. Perhaps statistics provided by adjoining school districts showing that they are more academically friendly. Instead there is almost nothing said or done, the conclusion would be parents don't understand or care as long as they have a new gym and their kids got to play sports. I hope the community will want something better than 16% of those taking the act being fully prepared for college. If this is what you want, so be it. If this not what you want, you can either try to improve the situation or vote with your feet and choose an alternative. I hope the board and administration can get together and come up with an improvement plan.

  8. carl fahrenwald 2011.12.16

    Rutland uses the ACT information compiled on the annual SD Board of Regents High School Transition Report. We use this database because they have so many other indicators of "real life" success post high school such as the average college GPAs of first year college students, the percentage of students awarded the Opportunity Scholarship, the % of students needing to take remedial courses after high school- all this info searchable based on the high schools students graduated from. We have been mostly pleased with the academic competitiveness and performance of Rutland graduates. Check out the latest on my wikipage:

  9. Charlie Johnson 2011.12.17

    Six million approved for the bond issue will require about $400,000 in annual debt payment. How many more additional instructors could that provide salaries for? In total, for 2011-12 school year, MSD has two less instructors that were not replaced-Mr. Lindsay and Mr. Miller. When the payment starts on th school renovation, about 1 in 7 or perhaps 1 in 8 dollars of the total school budget will go toward the MHS renovation.

Comments are closed.