OUR OPINION: ACT as part of school rankings makes sense

Daily Journal Editorial

The most important single component in determining whether a Mississippi high school student gets into college – and sometimes which institutional choices he or she has available – is the American College Test.

A student’s ACT can make or break that person’s future academic progression because it’s seen as the best determinant of the ability to do college work.

Yet as important as ACT scores are to Mississippi students, they aren’t part of the way schools are evaluated in the state. They should be.

Part of the reason the ACT isn’t factored in to Mississippi’s school accountability is the difficulty in securing the data, according to state education officials. But what if the schools paid the fees and required the test to be taken during school hours and in the student’s own school, rather than early on Saturday mornings and often in an unfamiliar setting?

That’s a question members of the state Board of Education have asked, and they’ve decided to pursue a request that the Legislature fund the costs of the ACT for Mississippi students and that schools give it on site. The cost is estimated at $1.6 million, a potentially manageable amount.

This way, schools would have less trouble collecting the data and it can be better incorporated into the accountability system.

Test scores are used as the primary measure of how well schools are educating their students, leading to their designation on a ranking level that now runs from A for the top schools to F for the worst. But it seems reasonable to include the

ACT, since students’ performance on that test is both reflective of the education they’ve received and critical to their futures.

ACT scores will no doubt be either a drag or a boost for some schools and school districts in their state rankings if they’re included, but the more likely result for many if not most is that ACT outcomes will square fairly closely with the other indicators. Generally speaking, school districts already doing well or poorly will see that reflected by their ACT scores.

The chairs of both legislative education committees, Gray Tollison of Oxford in the Senate and John Moore of Brandon in the House, have reacted favorably to the idea. As Mississippi strives to improve its educational performance and increase its college graduates, it’s a move that makes good sense.

Click video to hear audio

  • Kevin

    The overriding assumption in the editorial is that college is the destination for this state’s high school graduates. Why does the paper assume this? Well maybe because a great number of parents continue to waste their money (and their kids tally up huge student loan debt) on a college education. Fact is, youths between the ages of 18 and 22 for the most part are not mature enough for college-level work regardless of how awesome the high schools might be. Young adults in college are much more interested in sex, associating with peer groups in Greek organizations, college athletics, and a whole host of vice related issues, i.e. gambling, drinking, drug abuse. The vast majority of college students consider college to be part of some fake world between adolescence and adulthood. College for them is the place to go to get all of your partying out of the way while searching for a suitable mate. Coursework is considered by most to be a waste of time. Not to put all blame on students, state supported colleges and universities for the most part operate on an outdated curriculum model that does not serve today’s service-based economy. Too often it is the case that I see neighbor’s kids who scraped out a 2.8 GPA at college with a degree in something like accountancy and they’re working at Starbucks and living with mom and dad at age 25. Young adults should consider trade school, which is much more profitable in the long run and cheaper in the short term. We will always need electricians and auto mechanics or hair stylists more so than we need people who didn’t do any of their assignments in college and are saddled with mountains of student loan debt and working in fast food type businesses. College is not the answer. Until the state schools change their approach to education, college will be a waste of money and time. For full disclosure, I’m about 8 months away from my PhD–that’s the only way the college route is going to pay off–spend 10+ years and go all the way.