Another test report shows flat results

Graduating seniors in Colorado and the nation performed about the same on ACT tests in 2013 as their predecessors did in recent years, according to the study released Wednesday.

ACT results chart
Click to see larger image.

The national study came out a week after Colorado reported its 2013 TCAP scores and growth data, which also were largely flat (see story).

The annual report from the testing service found 39 percent of 2013 graduates meet three or more of the four ACT readiness benchmarks, and 31 percent met no benchmarks. The benchmarks indicate students’ chances of success in first-year college courses.

In Colorado only 25 percent of test takers met the benchmarks in all four subjects, compared to 26 percent nationwide.

Colorado’s 2013 average composite score was 20.4, compared to a national average of 20.9. Some 56,027 Colorado graduates took the test.

National and state benchmark performance and composite scores have been in pretty much the same range every year since 2009.

College and career readiness problems persist ,“with the majority [of students] ill-prepared for success at the next level,” according to ACT’s The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2013.

The report also found significant gaps between white students and others, both in Colorado and the nation. No more than 48 percent of African American, Hispanic and American Indian students met any of the benchmarks nationally.

The ACT calculates that students who meet the minimum benchmark scores in English, math, reading and science have a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher in a typical first-year college credit course.

Here are percentages of Colorado test takers who met benchmarks in individual subjects, with the national percentage in parenthesis:

  • English: 62 percent (64 percent)
  • Reading: 42 (44)
  • Math: 39 (44)
  • Science: 36 (36)

The ACT report also provides details about the effects on scores of taking core academic courses and a rigorous curriculum in middle school, and about the relationship between student goals and overall student engagement and test performance.

ACT testColorado is in the middle of a years-long effort to improve student readiness for college, using steps mandated by a 2008 law. Those measures include new academic content standards, in effect this year for all school districts; new high school graduation guidelines (see story), and creation of a new diploma that signifies college readiness (see story).

The Department of Higher Education also is revising college admissions requirements and remediation policies (see story).

Nationwide, some 54 percent of 2013’s 1.8 million high school graduates took the ACT tests. In 29 states 50 percent or more of grads took the tests, and 12 states had participation of 90 percent or higher. Colorado requires all high schools juniors to take the test, regardless of whether they plan to attend college. About 57 percent of state high school graduates went on to college in 2011, the most recent data available.

For 2013 ACT benchmarks were adjusted up one point in reading and down one point in science on the 36-point scale. The 2013 report also includes scores from students who received accommodations in taking the tests, which wasn’t the case in the past.

Annual national and state results for the other major college entrance exam, the SAT, usually are released in September. The 2012 report found that about 43 percent of high school graduates were ready for college. In the past Colorado students have scored higher than the national mean on the SAT tests. But only about 17 percent of Colorado students took the test in 2012, and only 14 percent of students who graduated from public high schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”