Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Do higher ACT scores mean KY public schools are improving?

The short answer is, "No." But don't tell that to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the Louisville Courier-Journal, or the Lexington Herald-Leader, who all were completely mum on the fact that the increase in average Kentucky ACT scores may have nothing to do with public school improvement at all, and everything to do with increased performance of private school students, whose scores are included in the average state score that ACT reports.

The scores for the test, which is taken by college-bound seniors, have risen from 20.6 last year to 20.7 this year. Not a great leap forward in any case. But when the improvement was announced in the state's two largest newspapers, there was Kevin Noland, the interim state school commissioner, and Lisa Gross, the KDE spokesperson, talking up how this is good news when they may actually have had nothing to do with it.

According to the Blue Grass Institute's Dick Innes, a similar rise in scores from 2004 to 2005 was due exclusively to the increase in performance of private school students. It didn't get reported then either.

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