I don’t think standardized tests should be the be-all and end-all in terms of measuring an individual student’s knowledge or preparedness, but when the overall average scores on standardized tests start to reveal long-term trends, we might want to start paying attention.
That’s why the ACT’s announcement earlier this week about a significant slide in college readiness — based on testing of more than 1.9 million high school graduates, which amounts to more than half of the 2018 American high school graduates — should be a cause for concern. According to the ACT, the “percentage of ACT-tested graduates who met or surpassed the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in math—suggesting they are ready to succeed in a first-year college algebra class—fell to its lowest level since 2004” and “students’ average score on the ACT math test dropped to its lowest level in more than 20 years—down to 20.5 (on a scale of 1 to 36), continuing a slide from 21.1 in 2012 to 20.7 last year.” Readiness in English, reading ability, and science also declined.
Even worse, the ACT announced that “[a] growing percentage of students are falling at the bottom of the preparedness scale,” with 35 percent of 2018 graduates met none of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks — which means they are likely to struggle in math, reading, English, and science as they move on to college.
It’s hard to tell how well our public schools are doing at preparing kids for college, but falling average test scores are a pretty compelling indication that things aren’t moving in the right direction. We should once again be taking a careful look at what our public schools are teaching, and how. If we aren’t teaching our kids what they need to know to live productive lives, we’re failing them — and failing the country. For years now, people have been talking about how the jobs of the future are going to exist in technology-related fields. Who is going to fill those jobs and allow America to compete globally if our kids can’t read or do math and science?