If you have a high schooler at home, are a high school student yourself, or graduated from high school, you know these acronyms: SAT and ACT. These are, of course, the standardized tests juniors and seniors take in order to apply to college. In Ohio, over 92,000 college-seeking students took the ACT exam during the 2011-12 school year. Recently, ACT, Inc., the Iowa-based company that administers the exam, reported national and state-by-state results for the ACT test.

Ohio’s 2012 results, which can be found here, show that Buckeye State high-school students slightly outperformed their national peers in all tested subjects (English, reading, math, and science). The percent of Ohio students reaching the ACT benchmarks outpaced the national percentage by three (science) to six (reading) percentage points. Ohio’s ACT results, therefore, seem to correspond well to its NAEP results—another nationally administered exam—which also indicate that Ohio students do slightly better than the national average.

While Ohio’s above-average performance on ACT exams may trigger small celebrations, a closer examination of the data should cause concern. The more-rigorous Common Core academic standards in English language arts and math and its aligned assessment, the PARCC exam for Ohio, will arrive in the 2014-15 school year. If the PARCC exams mirror the ACT exams in content and difficulty—a strong possibility—Ohio may be in for a rude awakening when it reports how many of its students “pass” the PARCC exam.

For example, of Ohio’s ACT test takers, only 49 percent reached the ACT benchmark in math and 58 percent in reading. Therefore, if we consider the ACT test results as a proxy for the PARCC, Ohio’s eleventh-grade pass rate would fall a staggering 34 points in reading and 43 points in math, using its 2010-11 pass rate as the baseline.

Anyone with an interest in Ohio education should read through the ACT results. They shed light on how well Ohio does compared to peers across the country. And even more importantly, the ACT results shed some light on Ohio’s future under the Common Core and its aligned assessment, the PARCC exam. If the ACT is a reliable crystal ball for Ohio’s future under the PARCC, Ohio educators have a long way to go to prepare more students for the academic standards and exams of the future.

Ohio: The Condition of College & Career Readiness, 2012

ACT, Inc.

August 2012

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