School districts are under pressure to graduate students who are “college- or career-ready.” The demand comes from colleges and employers as well as parents and legislators. Everyone acknowledges the need to hold students to high standards of performance. The challenge often is to ensure that the measure of readiness for what lies beyond high school is reliable and has national and international credibility.
The ACT tests have gained wide acceptance as a national standard. Thus it is encouraging that more students in Ohio are taking the assessment tests and that their performance is improving. Nearly 93,000 students in Ohio took the test this past school year, 31 percent of them, higher than the national average, meeting benchmarks in all the four subjects: English, reading, science and math. Ohio’s 21.8 average composite score was also better than the national average at 20.9.
If the improvements rate a cheer, it is clear more work remains. Fewer than 50 percent of students met the benchmarks in math and science. Twenty-three percent met no benchmarks at all. To plug such gaps, the Akron Public Schools six years ago took the initiative to make the sequence of ACT assessment tests a norm for all its students, beginning in the eighth grade. Students take the diagnostic Explore test in the eighth grade and again in the ninth. The Plan test follows in the 10th grade and the actual ACT test in the 11th grade. Twelfth-graders get a second chance to retake the test for a better score. To be sure, the tests don’t guarantee success; they offer students a fair idea of their chances of making it past high school.