The percentage of Kentucky high school graduates reaching benchmark scores on the ACT test improved in some subjects this year, but educators still have much work to do, results being released Wednesday show.
For example, more than 35 percent of Kentuckians who graduated from high school this spring failed to achieve any benchmark score on the ACT. The benchmark scores indicate likely success in college.
The Kentucky numbers are included in the national 2011 Condition of College and Career Readiness Report, which ACT Inc. will release Wednesday morning at the Jessamine Career and Technology Center in Nicholasville.
The national report looks at the percentages of 2011 graduates who achieved ACT benchmark scores of 18 in English, 21 in reading, 22 in math and 24 in science.
Only 16 percent of Kentucky graduates reached the benchmark in all four areas
ACT Inc.'s guideline says students who reach benchmark scores have a 50 percent chance of getting a grade of B or higher, or a 75 percent chance of getting a C or higher, in corresponding first-year college credit courses.
Overall, ACT's national report indicates college and career readiness is increasing, with 25 percent of the 2011 class nationally meeting or exceeding all four benchmarks. But the results also show an "alarming number" of students graduate without the skills they'll need after high school.
According to the national results, 57 percent of Kentucky's 2011 grads achieved a benchmark score in English, up from 55 percent last year. Some 43 percent made benchmark in reading, up from 40 percent last year. However, the percentages of Kentuckians making benchmarks in math and science were 28 percent and 21 percent, respectively, the same as last year.
The percentage of Kentuckians achieving benchmark scores trailed the nation in every subject category. Overall, ACT reports that 38 percent of Kentucky high school graduates in 2011 failed to achieve a benchmark score in any of the four target subjects.
"In most cases we are moving in the right direction," state education department spokeswoman Lisa Gross said. "We have slightly higher percentages of kids meeting those benchmarks, and that's great. But we are not where we need to be."
Gross noted that under 2009 state legislation, Kentucky schools are required to use ACT scores and results from other tests to gauge whether students are on track to reach benchmarks. Schools can provide classes to help students who are lagging.
In comparison with other states that require 100 percent testing, Kentucky, with an overall composite ACT score of 19.6, edged ahead of Tennessee, whose composite was 19.5.
But Kentucky trailed Illinois and Colorado, which had composites of 20.9 and 20.7, respectively. Both of those states have had 100 percent testing for several years.
Richard Innes, an analyst with the free-market Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, contended that scores from Louisiana, another 100 percent testing state, show the potential of charter schools. Louisiana opened large numbers of charters after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Innes noted that Louisiana's 2011 ACT composite score was 20.2, compared with Kentucky's 19.6. Louisiana's scores for white and African-American students also were significantly higher than Kentucky's, he said.
"There definitely are indications here that a well-run charter program could help us a lot," Innes said.
Reach Jim Warren at (859) 231-3255 or 1-800-950-6397 Ext. 3255.