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Friday, August 15, 2008

Ohio's Black Student ACT Scores Drop Since '04: Where's Boost From Charter Schools?

COLUMBUS (TDB) -- The college board scores on the ACT test are up this year in Ohio, an achievement the state education department and outgoing State Supt. Susan Tave Zelman are high-fivin' in a press release. But the data is not so positive for African-American students, whose 2008 results are actually lower than they were in 2004. In fact, the gap between whites and blacks has been growing, not shrinking. The scores demonstrate that black children are still being left behind in this era of No Child Left Behind and charter schools. They were supposed to erase the achievement gap, not make it worse.

This year, the ACT composite score was 21.7 for all 88,103 Ohio students who took the college entrance exam, which measures academic results in reading, science, math and English. For whites the score was 22.2; for blacks 17.1. Five years ago, the ACT score was 21.4 for all students, 21.8 for whites and 17.2 for blacks.

Over the past five school years, charter schools have proliferated, and last year there were 252 in the state's nine largest, most urban counties. They were created and funded as alternatives to the public schools, meant to give parents a choice if they felt the public schools weren't up to snuff. The plan was that charter schools would offer poor and urban families a superior education for their children. While the ACT scores don't prove the charter movement is going to wind up a complete failure in the long run, the test results do show that momentum toward success is lacking. The scores for African American haven't improved at all since the charter schools have proliferated:

2004 -- 17.2
2005 -- 17.1
2006 --17.2
2007 -- 17.0
2008 -- 17.1.

Meanwhile, State School Supt. Zelman is crowing about the overall results, and notes there is a relationship between a rigorous curriculum and the ACT: "Data clearly shows a relationship between coursework and college readiness. There more students are exposed to rich and challenging coursework, the better the opportunity for success in the future."

She doesn't say anything about the impact of Ohio's charter schools on the national entrance and placement exam.


  1. Bill,

    On the one hand, you're not being totally fair. The number of African American test takers has increased by more than 25% over that time, and you have to assume that the best students were already taking the ACT, so the population of students who are taking the test now who would have skipped it in 2004 are probably scoring lower and bringing the average down. If we had universal ACT participation you'd have a better idea of whether things are changing.

    Having said that, you're absolutely right that all of the improvement that they are celebrating has come from White and Asian test-takers, which puts a significant damper on the results.

  2. Bonobo --

    I understand your position and really considered it as a factor myself before I wrote the post. So were are somewhat in accord. But -- and this is where we may see things differently -- I noticed that the overall number of students who take the ACT is up considerably in Ohio. And the overall score increased -- it did not sink or remain flat.

    As an aside, the African American students who took the more rigorous high school courses (60% of those who sat for the ACT) did better, a 17.8 score in 2008 versus 16.1 for those who took the weak schedule.

    Bonobo, in my view the idea behind a quality education is that all students who prepare for college should have been prepared for the college boards. I think this data shows that some are not. I wish No Child Left Behind was more than a slogan. And I know plenty of teachers who do their best to make sure it is not a slogan, but they can't do it all by themselves.

  3. Bill:

    Where is the boost for the last 50 years from the teachers union?