Colorado ACT test scores remain flat

Colorado’s run of flat test scores continued with the release Friday of ACT results that showed high school juniors recorded a composite score of 20.1 on the college readiness test last spring, down from 20.3 in 2014.

State scores on the test have budged very little since 2008, from a low of 20 to last year’s scores as the high.

The composite score is drawn from the scores of all students on the test’s four sections – English, reading, math and science. Composite scores in individual subjects were down except for science, where the score was 20.5 compared to 2014’s 20.4. The perfect score on all ACT test sections is 36.

The scores, released by the Colorado Department of Education, are the second set of data from the spring testing season to be made available.

Scores on state science and social studies tests, released in July, showed a modest uptick from 2014. Scores for the new PARCC language arts and math tests will be made public in November.

The 2015 ACT scores showed familiar gaps between different groups of students. Some examples:

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  • The composite scores were 20.3 for females and 20 for males.
  • Students who qualify for free- and reduced-price lunches had a composite score of 17.3.
  • White students scored 21.7, while scores were 17.3 for Hispanics, 17.1 for blacks, 22 for Asians and 17.9 for American Indians.
  • Students with non-English language backgrounds scored 13.7.
  • Students receiving Title I services, with individual education plans and other special services scored 16.8.
  • Immigrant students scored 15.7.

The ACT scores are one element used by the state accreditation system to rate how well districts and schools are preparing students for college and the workforce. All juniors are required to take the test. While the scores aren’t used by schools to rate students, ACT results are vital for students who are applying to college.

Results from the ACT or a similar test may take on greater importance in the future.

A testing law passed earlier this year requires that Colorado students take a college and career readiness test in the 10th grade as well as the 11th grade exam. The two tests are supposed to be aligned, so they are expected to be provided by the same testing company.

The new law also requires that the contract for the two tests be put out to bid, so ACT won’t necessarily be the winner. The department hopes to select a testing company by November.

Results of college entrance tests also are one indicator that districts can use to meet new state high school graduation guidelines approved this week by the State Board of Education.

There’s also talk among some policymakers and legislators of adapting the ACT or another 11th grade test so its results can be used to fulfill federal requirements for giving a science test once in high school. Doing that would eliminate the current 11th grade science test.

The results released Friday – officially known as the Colorado ACT – differ somewhat from national results provided recently by the testing company. The state results cover only public school students who took the test as juniors. The company’s results cover 2015 high school graduates and include non-public students and students who took the test as seniors.