There are some lefties out there in full froth using this drop as some sort of proof that Republican policies are damaging education. In fact, the explanation is much more pedestrian.
Comparing Wisconsin ACT scores released this week with those of years past is a tricky business, the Department of Public Instruction and local school officials warn.
Juniors across Wisconsin last year took the ACT, bumping Wisconsin’s participation rate from 73 percent to almost 100 percent. The average composite score was 20.0, 2.2 points lower than the average composite score posted the year before. (That 2014 average included only the best score posted by each test taker, regardless of grade.)
“To do justice, you need to compare apples to apples,” said Roger Fruit, the Onalaska School District’s director of instructional services.
Sixty-nine percent of last year’s graduating class at Onalaska took the ACT, he said, with an average composite score of 24.1. A score of 21 is considered an informal bar for admission at selective universities. This past year, 98 percent of juniors took the exam and posted an average score of 22.1. Fruit said he expects that number to go up when ACT Inc. releases graduating class information for 2016.
Slightly more than half the states in the nation have an ACT participation rate higher than 50 percent, according to ACT data, and states with higher participation rates tend to have lower average composite scores. Compared with all states, Wisconsin’s average score last year put it in the upper middle of the pack, 18th, right behind Iowa and four slots behind Minnesota.
In the past, only kids who planned to go to college took the ACT. Now they all are required to do it. Frankly, I think that’s a stupid rule and a waste of time and money, but the average score would necessarily drop if you have 100% participation.