Nebraska and the 2017 ACT Test Results

Feb 2, 2018 by

By Henry W. Burke

2.2.18

 

Nebraska education officials cannot claim bragging rights over scores on the national tests. 

On the 2017 ACT tests (involving 84 % of Nebraska high school graduates), only 28 % of the graduates are ready for college in all four subjects (English, Reading, Math, and Science).  Nebraska is ranked No. 27 on the 2017 ACT tests. 

The State Board of Education must address the large minority achievement gaps and the mediocre test scores. 

When comparing Nebraska’s national test data to national test averages, it is important to remember that Nebraska has roughly half the number of minority students. Texas, for instance, has three times the percentage of minority students compared to that of Nebraska.  

The performance of a state’s students on the national exams is a good measure of the success or failure of the education system in the state. 

If the standards that the Board has adopted for Nebraska over the last ten years were truly great standards, increased student academic achievement would show up on the national exams.  Likewise, poor state standards would lead to mediocre results on the national tests. 

Strong Type #1 State Standards in Nebraska would greatly enhance educational outcomes, improve graduation rates, and better prepare students for college and careers.

Type #1 means the curriculum standards are traditional/knowledge-based/academic, emphasize back-to-the-basics core knowledge and skills that grow in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next, are specific for each grade level (or course), and can be tested largely through objective questions that have right-or-wrong answers.

 

  1. General Comments About National Tests

The major national tests are the NAEP, ACT, SAT and PSAT.  The NAEP tests are administered in Grades 4, 8 and 12.  As such, NAEP provides some gauge on elementary, middle school and high school achievement.

Under the ESSA law, states will have to test students in Grades 3 – 8 and once in high school.  Nebraska is using the NeSA tests to satisfy the requirement for the lower grades.  At the high school level, school districts can use the nationally recognized tests such as the ACT or SAT.

  1. SAT Exams

Common Core author David Coleman now heads the College Board.  When Coleman joined the College Board, he promised to align all products (SAT, PSAT and Advanced Placement courses) with the Common Core Standards.  Because of this Common Core alignment, Nebraska should not utilize the SAT and PSAT exams. 

  1. NAEP Tests

Typically NAEP uses a much smaller sample than the ACT tests (usually around 3,000 students).  For the 2015 NAEP Science tests in Nebraska, 2,400 students participated in the Grade 4 NAEP Science exam; and 2,300 students took the Grade 8 Science exam.  [2,400 students + 2,300 students = 4,700 students]  With a 2015 Nebraska student enrollment of 312,281, the 4,700 students represent less than 2 % of the students in the state. 

http://nep.education.ne.gov/State?DataYears=20162017%20#demographics-results-tab-holder

Nebraska students have not taken the NAEP tests since 2013.  Because NAEP is aligned with the Common Core Standards, Nebraska should continue to avoid the NAEP tests.  Beginning in 2017, NAEP started asking questions to gauge a student’s “motivation, mindset, and grit.”  With NAEP moving into these non-cognitive areas, Nebraska has one more reason to avoid the NAEP tests. 

  1. ACT Tests

This basically leaves the ACT exams as a national testing instrument.  The ACT tests are gradually being aligned and contaminated with the Common Core Standards.  The ACT Aspire test is fully Common Core-aligned and should be avoided; ACT Aspire already includes social emotional testing (like PARCC).  Even though the ACT test is partially aligned to the Common Core Standards, the ACT test is a better choice as a college entrance exam than is the SAT since the SAT is fully aligned to the Common Core.  

Participation is much higher in the ACT tests than in the NAEP tests.  For the 2017 ACT tests, a total of 2,030,038 students in the U.S. took the tests.  In Nebraska, 18,998 students took the 2017 ACT tests.  Since 84 % of Nebraska high school graduates were tested by the ACT, the results for Nebraska are quite representative of the total student population.  

A 2016 decision by the Nebraska State Board of Education is quite important.  At the September 2016 State Board Meeting, the Board selected ACT to provide the college entrance exam:

          The Nebraska State Board of Education has selected ACT to provide the standardized college entrance exam for Nebraska students in the 11th grade. Beginning in the spring of 2017, the exam will be administered to all high school juniors and will replace the current Nebraska State Accountability (NeSA) assessment at that grade level.

          In April 2016, the Nebraska Legislature passed Legislative Bill 930 requiring public school students in the 11th grade to take a college admission test. In addition, the requirement for a statewide writing assessment will end after the 2016-17 school year and will be replaced with a statewide reading English Language Arts assessment, containing a writing component.

          https://www.education.ne.gov/sbsummary/Sept2016/StateBoardReportSept2016.pdf

The ACT will provide students with a score that can be used at colleges and universities to assist in application and admission decisions.  Through the ACT tests, Nebraska students can be compared readily with students from other states across the country. 

  1. Classic Learning Test (CLT)

A new alternative to the ACT and SAT college entrance exams is the Classic Learning Test (CLT).  Developed by Classic Learning Initiatives, the Classic Learning Test provides an accurate measure of student performance.  Because the SAT is aligned with the Common Core Standards, students not schooled in Common Core are at a distinct disadvantage when taking the SAT.  To a lesser extent, this also applies to the ACT exams.  Why should homeschool students or private school students be at a disadvantage for college admission?  By offering an alternative to the SAT and ACT exams, students receiving a classical education receive a true measure of their college readiness.

John T. Vessey, PhD (Department of Psychology, Wheaton College) stated:

          “Based on the data currently collected and the analyses I have conducted on that data, I believe that colleges and universities can confidently use CLT scores for admissions decisions, and that the CLT will perform just as well as the SAT or ACT. CLT scores are highly correlated with both SAT and ACT scores, and correlate remarkably well with freshman GPA. Both of these are indicators that the CLT possesses high validity as well as reliability.”
https://www.cltexam.com/

Numerous colleges are already accepting the CLT (Classic Learning Test) for admission.  The current list includes 88 colleges and universities across the country and in Canada.  Some of the institutions include: Hillsdale College, Liberty University, and The Kings College.

https://www.cltexam.com/colleges

 

  1. National Results for the 2017 ACT Tests

Table 1 lists the 51 states (50 states plus the District of Columbia) alphabetically.  The ranks are based on their 2017 ACT Average Composite Scores.  It is easy for the public to locate their state ranking and then to use that ranking on the other Tables.

 

Table 1 – 2017 ACT Average Composite Scores for All States

(States listed alphabetically)

State Rank Average

Composite Score

Percent

Tested

National    —   21.0     60
       
Alabama    46   19.2   100
Alaska    38   19.8     65
Arizona    41   19.7     62
Arkansas    44   19.4   100
California    15   22.8     31
Colorado    28   20.8   100
Connecticut      3   25.2     31
Delaware      7   24.1     18
District of Columbia      5   24.2     32
Florida    39   19.8     73
Georgia    25   21.4     55
Hawaii    48   19.0     90
Idaho    17   22.3     38
Illinois    26   21.4     93
Indiana    16   22.6     35
Iowa    19   21.9     67
Kansas    23   21.7     73
Kentucky    37   20.0   100
Louisiana    43   19.5   100
Maine      4   24.3       8
Maryland    13   23.6     28
Massachusetts      2   25.4     29
Michigan      8   24.1     29
Minnesota    24   21.5   100
Mississippi    50   18.6   100
Missouri    31   20.4   100
Montana    33   20.3   100
Nebraska    27   21.4     84
Nevada    51   17.8   100
New Hampshire      1   25.5     18
New Jersey    10   23.9     34
New Mexico   42   19.7     66
New York      6   24.2     31
North Carolina    47   19.1   100
North Dakota    34   20.3     98
Ohio    18   22.0     75
Oklahoma    45   19.4   100
Oregon    21   21.8     40
Pennsylvania    12   23.7     23
Rhode Island      9   24.0     21
South Carolina    49   18.7   100
South Dakota    22   21.8     80
Tennessee    40   19.8   100
Texas    29   20.7     45
Utah    35   20.3   100
Vermont    14   23.6     29
Virginia    11   23.8     29
Washington    20   21.9     29
West Virginia    32   20.4     69
Wisconsin    30   20.5   100
Wyoming    36   20.2   100

Source:

ACT, “The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2017 – National”

“The ACT Profile Report – National, Graduating Class 2017”

“The ACT Profile Report – Nebraska, Graduating Class 2017”

https://www.act.org/content/act/en/research/condition-of-college-and-career-readiness-2017.html

https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/cccr2017/ACT_2017-Average_Scores_by_State.pdf

https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/cccr2017/P_99_999999_N_S_N00_ACT-GCPR_National.pdf

https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/cccr2017/P_28_289999_S_S_N00_ACT-GCPR_Nebraska.pdf

Nebraska is ranked No. 27, with an Average Composite Score of 21.4.  In Nebraska, 84 % of the graduates were tested.  Nebraska is ranked No. 21 in terms of the percentage of graduates tested.

Table 2 lists the 51 states and the Average Test Scores on the 2017 ACT tests for the four subjects — English, Reading, Math, and Science.  The states are ranked according to their Average Composite Scores.

 

Table 2 – 2017 ACT Average Test Scores in the Four Subjects for All States

(Ranked by Average Composite Scores)

Rank State Composite English Reading Math Science
   — National   21.0   20.3   21.4   20.7   21.0
             
    1 New Hampshire   25.5   25.4   26.0   25.1   24.9
    2 Massachusetts   25.4   25.4   25.9   25.3   24.7
    3 Connecticut   25.2   25.5   25.6   24.6   24.6
    4 Maine   24.3   24.2   24.8   24.0   23.7
    5 District of Columbia   24.2   24.4   24.9   23.5   23.5
    6 New York   24.2   23.8   24.6   24.0   23.9
    7 Delaware   24.1   24.1   24.8   23.4   23.6
    8 Michigan   24.1   24.1   24.5   23.7   23.8
    9 Rhode Island   24.0   24.0   24.7   23.3   23.4
  10 New Jersey   23.9   23.8   24.1   23.8   23.2
  11 Virginia   23.8   23.5   24.6   23.3   23.5
  12 Pennsylvania   23.7   23.4   24.2   23.4   23.3
  13 Maryland   23.6   23.3   24.2   23.1   23.2
 14 Vermont   23.6   23.3   24.4   23.1   23.2
  15 California   22.8   22.5   23.1   22.7   22.2
  16 Indiana   22.6   22.0   23.2   22.4   22.3
  17 Idaho   22.3   21.9   23.0   21.8   22.1
  18 Ohio   22.0   21.2   22.5   21.6   22.0
  19 Iowa   21.9   21.2   22.6   21.3   22.1
  20 Washington   21.9   20.9   22.1   21.9   22.0
  21 Oregon   21.8   21.2   22.4   21.5   21.7
  22 South Dakota   21.8   20.7   22.3   21.5   22.0
  23 Kansas   21.7   21.1   22.3   21.3   21.7
  24 Minnesota   21.5   20.4   21.8   21.5   21.6
  25 Georgia   21.4   21.0   22.0   20.9   21.3
  26 Illinois   21.4   21.0    21.6   21.2   21.3
  27 Nebraska   21.4   20.9   21.9   20.9   21.5
  28 Colorado   20.8   20.1   21.2   20.3   20.9
  29 Texas   20.7   19.5   21.1   20.7   20.9
  30 Wisconsin   20.5   19.7   20.6   20.4   20.9
  31 Missouri   20.4   19.8   20.8   19.9   20.5
  32 West Virginia   20.4   20.0   21.2   19.4   20.5
  33 Montana   20.3   19.0   21.0   20.2   20.5
  34 North Dakota   20.3   19.0   20.5   20.4   20.6
  35 Utah   20.3   19.5   20.8   19.9   20.6
  36 Wyoming   20.2   19.4   20.8   19.8   20.6
  37 Kentucky   20.0   19.6   20.5   19.4   20.1
  38 Alaska   19.8   18.7   20.4   19.8   19.9
  39 Florida   19.8   19.0   21.0   19.4   19.4
  40 Tennessee   19.8   19.5   20.1   19.2   19.9
  41 Arizona   19.7   18.6   20.1   19.8   19.8
  42 New Mexico   19.7   18.6   20.4   19.4   20.0
  43 Louisiana   19.5   19.4   19.8   18.8   19.6
  44 Arkansas   19.4   18.9   19.7   19.0   19.5
  45 Oklahoma   19.4   18.5   20.1   18.8   19.6
  46 Alabama   19.2   18.9   19.7   18.4   19.4
  47 North Carolina   19.1   17.8   19.6   19.3   19.3
  48 Hawaii   19.0   17.8   19.2   19.2   19.3
  49 South Carolina   18.7   17.5   19.1   18.6   18.9
  50 Mississippi   18.6   18.2   18.8   18.1   18.8
  51 Nevada   17.8   16.3   18.1   18.0   18.2

 

New Hampshire is ranked No. 1 with an Average Composite Score of 25.5.  Nevada is ranked No. 51 with an Average Composite Score of 17.8.  On the ACT exams, a perfect score for each test is 36.0.

The National Average Composite Score is 21.0.  The Table shows that 27 states are above the National Average Composite Score of 21.0 and 24 states are below this figure.  Oddly enough, Nebraska is close to the median with an Average Composite Score of 21.4.  Nebraska is ranked No. 27 on the 2017 ACT tests.

Table 3 lists all of the states and shows the percentage of graduates who met the College Readiness Benchmarks in each subject area.  The states are listed in the order of their Average Composite Scores.

 

Table 3 –Percent of Graduates Meeting 2017 ACT Benchmarks for All States

(Ranked by Average Composite Scores)

Rank State Percent

Tested

English

Benchmark

Reading

Benchmark

Math

Benchmark

Science

Benchmark

    — National     60     61     47     41     37
             
    1 New Hampshire     18     89     75     74     66
    2 Massachusetts     29     88     75     75     65
    3 Connecticut     31     88     74     70     64
    4 Maine       8     84     68     67     57
    5 Distr. of Columbia     32     73     64     59     54
    6 New York     31     82     68     67     59
    7 Delaware     18     82     68     61     55
    8 Michigan     29     84     68     64     58
    9 Rhode Island     21     81     68     61     56
  10 New Jersey     34     80     65     64     54
  11 Virginia     29     80     67     60     56
  12 Pennsylvania     23     80     66     62     55
  13 Maryland     28     77     64     59     54
  14 Vermont     29     80     66     61     55
  15 California     31     73     57     55     46
  16 Indiana     35     74     58     55     47
  17 Idaho     38     73     58     50     45
  18 Ohio     75     69     54     48     44
  19 Iowa     67     71     55     45     45
  20 Washington     29     62     52     51     44
  21 Oregon     40     67     53     47     43
  22 South Dakota     80     68     54     49     46
  23 Kansas     73     69     54     46     41
  24 Minnesota   100     63     50     48     42
  25 Georgia     55     66     51     41     38
  26 Illinois     93     66     48     44     39
  27 Nebraska     84     67     50     42     41
  28 Colorado   100     61    46     38     37
  29 Texas     45     57     45     40     35
  30 Wisconsin   100     59     42     39     37
  31 Missouri   100     59     43     34     34
  32 West Virginia     69     64     47     30     32
  33 Montana   100     55     44    37     33
  34 North Dakota     98     56     40     40     33
  35 Utah   100     58     43     35     34
  36 Wyoming   100     58     42     34     34
  37 Kentucky   100     58     41     30     31
  38 Alaska     65     53     41     35     29
  39 Florida     73     52     43     32     29
  40 Tennessee   100     56     39     29     29
  41 Arizona     62     51     38     34     29
  42 New Mexico     66     50     39     29     28
  43 Louisiana   100     57     36     26     27
  44 Arkansas   100     53     36     27     25
  45 Oklahoma   100     52     39     26     26
  46 Alabama   100     52     36     23     25
  47 North Carolina   100     46     36     30     27
  48 Hawaii     90     47     33     29     26
  49 South Carolina   100     44     33     25     23
  50 Mississippi   100     47     29     20     20
  51 Nevada   100     38     27     21     19

 

How does ACT determine if students are College Ready?  The ACT website explains:

          Only the ACT reports College Readiness Benchmark Scores – A benchmark score is the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding credit-bearing college courses, which include English Composition, Algebra, Social Science, Biology and STEM. These scores were empirically derived based on the actual performance of students in college.

            https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/cccr2017/P_99_999999_N_S_N00_ACT-GCPR_National.pdf

College Course Area               ACT Score           Benchmark Score

English Composition              English                18

Social Sciences                        Reading               22

Algebra                                   Mathematics        22

Biology                                   Science                 23

STEM                                     STEM                  26

 

  1. Performance of Nebraska Students on 2017 ACT Tests

How are Nebraska students doing on the national ACT tests?  The answer is “not very well.” 

As shown in Tables 1 – 3, Nebraska is ranked No. 27, meaning 26 states scored higher than Nebraska on the ACT tests.

Table 4 provides five years of the National figures on College Readiness for the four subject areas.

 

Table 4 –National: Percent Who Met College Readiness Benchmarks

Year No.

Students

English Reading Math Science Met All

Four

2013 1,799,243   64 %   44 %   44 %   36 %   26 %
2014 1,845,787   64 %   44 %   43 %   37 %   26 %
2015 1,924,436   64 %   46 %   42 %   38 %   28 %
2016 2,090,342   61 %   44 %   41 %   36 %   26 %
2017 2,030,038   61 %   47 %   41 %   37 %   27 %

Source:

“The ACT Profile Report – National, Graduating Class 2017”

https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/cccr2017/P_99_999999_N_S_N00_ACT-GCPR_National.pdf

Table 5 lists the five-year trends for percentages of Nebraska students who met the College Readiness Benchmarks in each subject. 

 

Table 5 –Nebraska: Percent Who Met College Readiness Benchmarks

Year No.

Students

English Reading Math Science Met All

Four

2013   17,745   71 %   48 %   46 %   41 %   28 %
2014   17,768   72 %   48 %   45 %   42 %   29 %
2015   18,347   69 %   49 %   44 %   42 %   29 %
2016   18,598   68 %   48 %   43 %   40 %   28 %
2017   18,993   67 %   50 %   42 %   41 %   28 %

Source:

“The ACT Profile Report – State – Nebraska, Graduating Class 2017”

https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/cccr2017/P_28_289999_S_S_N00_ACT-GCPR_Nebraska.pdf

In the 2017 ACT tests, 18,993 students took the national exams.  Because 84 % of Nebraska graduates were tested, the ACT results for Nebraska provide an accurate gauge of the total student population.  

According to the latest 2017 ACT report, the five-year trend shows drops in both English and Math.  For all four ACT subject areas, the report shows the Percent of Students Who Met College Readiness Benchmarks.  The five-year trend from 2013 to 2017 indicates:

          English percentages dropped from 71 % in 2013 to 67 % in 2017.

          Reading percentages increased from 48 % in 2013 to 50 % in 2017.

          Math percentages dropped from 46 % in 2013 to 42% in 2017.

          Science percentages remained at 41% in 2013 and 2017.

Nebraska students who met all four College Readiness Benchmarks remained at 28 % in 2013 and 2017.  To repeat, only 28 % of Nebraska students are ready for college in all four subject areas! 

This indicates that Nebraska’s K-12 schools are not preparing students for college.  It appears that Nebraska’s so-called “College and Career-Readiness Standards” are not living up to the title. 

Because race and ethnicity affect the test results, the minority makeup should be examined.  Table 6 presents the percentages of White, Black and Hispanic students. 

 

Table 6 – 2017 ACT Minority Percentages – Nebraska and National

Student

Group

All Students

Tested

White Students Tested Black Students Tested Hispanic Students Tested
No. Percent No. Percent No. Percent No. Percent
Nebraska      18,993 100      13,337   70         752     4     2,514   13
National 2,030,038 100 1,062,439   52 256,756   13 347,906   17

 

Because minority groups often come from language-impoverished homes, they do not score very well on the various tests.   Accordingly, there is a strong correlation between high minority percentages and low test scores.  Nebraska has many more Hispanics than Blacks.  In Hispanic households, English is often the second language.  Hence, Nebraska offers many English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.

The Table shows that Nebraska has 70 % Whites, 4 % Black/African American students, and 13 % Hispanic/Latino students.  Nebraska has fewer minority students (Blacks plus Hispanics) than the National group (17 % in Nebraska vs. 30 % in National).  This means that Nebraska should do much better than the National Group on the ACT tests.

The difference between scores for various racial groups is known as the “achievement gap.”  Nebraska educators should be very concerned about the achievement gaps between Whites and various minority groups. 

Table 7 shows the achievement gaps for Nebraska and National.

 

Table 7 – 2017 ACT Achievement Gaps – Nebraska and National

(2017 ACT Average Composite Scores)

Student

Group

All Students

Score

White Students

Score

Black Students

Score

W-B

Achievement

Gap

Hispanic Students

Score

W-H

Achievement

Gap

Nebraska    21.4    22.4    17.6     4.8    18.4     4.0
National    21.0    22.4    17.1     5.3    18.9     3.5

 

Even with very few minority students, Nebraska’s scores are only slightly higher than the National All Students Score.  For White Students, Nebraska’s Score is identical to the National Score (22.4).  Nebraska’s Black Score is a little higher than the National Score (17.6 vs. 17.1); Nebraska’s Hispanic Score is lower than the National Score (18.4 vs. 18.9).

The achievement gap (difference in test scores) between Whites and minorities is rather troubling.  In Nebraska, the White-Black achievement gap in Average Composite Score is 4.8 (22.4 – 17.6 = 4.8); and the White-Hispanic achievement gap is 4.0 (22.4 – 18.4 = 4.0). 

As a percentage of the White scores, these gaps are huge!  The White-Black gap (difference in test scores) of 4.8 is 21 % of 22.4 (White score); the White-Hispanic gap of 4.0 is 18 % of 22.4.

When the achievement gaps are compared between Nebraska and National, the White-Black gaps are slightly lower; however, Nebraska has much wider White-Hispanic achievement gaps than National.  This suggests that Nebraska should work much harder to improve the performance of minority students (Black/African-American and Hispanic students).

 

  1. Comparison of Nebraska with Texas on ACT Tests

On the 2017 ACT, Nebraska had 4 % Black students and 13 % Hispanic students.  This 17 % minority figure is far lower than the whopping 51 % minority number for Texas!

Because Nebraska has a significant Hispanic population, it is imperative that the schools provide an education geared to their needs.  This does not mean dual-language classes.  Studies have proven that Hispanic students will be hampered in their education and careers if they do not know English.

Table 8 provides a picture of the minority makeup for Nebraska, Texas, and the Nation.

 

Table 8 – Minority Percentages for Nebraska, Texas, and National

(2017 ACT)

Student

Group

All Students

Tested

White Students Tested Black Students Tested Hispanic Students Tested
No. Percent No. Percent No. Percent No. Percent
Nebraska      18,993   100      13,337   70         752     4      2,514   13
Texas    146,608   100      50,119   34    15,021   10    60,142   41
National 2,030,038   100 1,062,439   52 256,756   13 347,906   17

 

Nebraska has 17 % minority students (4 % + 13 % = 17 %).

Texas has 51 % minority students (10 % + 41 % = 51 %).

Texas has three times the percentage of minorities as Nebraska and 1.7 times the percentage of minorities as the National picture.  Accordingly, a person would expect Texas to have much lower test scores than Nebraska.

The following Table 9 compares the ACT test results for Nebraska and Texas, along with the achievement gaps for each subject:

 

Table 9 – Comparison Between Nebraska and Texas on Achievement Gaps

Student

Group

All Students

Score*

White Students

Score

Black Students

Score

W-B

Achievement

Gap

Hispanic Students

Score

W-H

Achievement

Gap

Composite            
Nebraska   21.4   22.4   17.6       4.8   18.4       4.0
Texas   20.7   23.2   17.8       5.4   18.6       4.6
National   21.0   22.4   17.1       5.3   18.9       3.5
             
English            
Nebraska   20.9   22.0   16.8       5.2   17.3       4.7
Texas   19.5   22.6   16.4       6.2   17.1       5.5
National   20.3   22.1   16.0       6.1   17.7       4.4
             
Reading            
Nebraska   21.9   22.9   18.0       4.9   18.8       4.1
Texas   21.1   23.9   18.1       5.8   18.9       5.0
National   21.4   23.0   17.4       5.6   19.3       3.7
             
Math            
Nebraska   20.9   21.8   17.1       4.7   18.2       3.6
Texas   20.7   22.8   17.9       4.9   18.9       3.9
National   20.7   21.9   17.1       4.8   18.9       3.0
             
Science            
Nebraska   21.5   22.4  17.9       4.5   18.8       3.6
Texas   20.9   23.1   18.2       4.9   19.1       4.0
National   21.0   22.3   17.4       4.9   19.1       3.2

Source:

“The ACT Profile Report – State – Texas, Graduating Class 2017”

https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/cccr2017/P_44_449999_S_S_N00_ACT-GCPR_Texas.pdf

“The ACT Profile Report – State – Nebraska, Graduating Class 2017”

https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/cccr2017/P_28_289999_S_S_N00_ACT-GCPR_Nebraska.pdf

Notes:

For Texas scores, the new Type #1 English / Language Arts / Reading TEKS (Texas’ curriculum standards) had not yet been implemented fully at the time of the ACT 2017 testing. With full implementation of the newly adopted Type #1 ELAR curriculum standards, Texas’ ACT scores should increase even more.  

How do Nebraska students compare with Texas students? 

With much higher minority percentages in Texas, you would expect the “All Students” test scores to be much lower in Texas than in Nebraska.  In fact, Texas scored just slightly lower than Nebraska.  The Composite Score for All Students is 21.4 in Nebraska vs. 20.7 for Texas.  Minorities (Blacks plus Hispanics) make up 17 % of the students in Nebraska while Minorities comprise a whopping 51 % of the students in Texas!

To avoid an “apples and oranges” comparison, look at the ACT test scores for White students in each state.  The Average Composite Score for Whites is 22.4 for Nebraska vs. 23.2 for Texas.  The English Score is 22.0 for Nebraska vs. 22.6 for Texas; and the Math score is 21.8 for Nebraska vs. 22.8 for Texas.  (Similar results are shown for Reading and Science.)  In every case, Nebraska students scored lower than Texas students.

Serious educators are very concerned about the achievement gaps between white students and minority students.  In Nebraska, the largest achievement gap for any subject is in English.  The White-Black achievement gap in English is 5.2 and the White-Hispanic gap is 4.7.  When expressed as a percentage, the achievement gaps are substantial.  For Nebraska, the English White-Black achievement gap is 24 %; and the White-Hispanic achievement gap is 21 %.

Clearly, Nebraska needs to work hard to raise the ACT scores for Blacks and Hispanics, especially in English.  The State Board of Education, Nebraska Department of Education, and Nebraska educators should be very concerned about these huge achievement gaps between Whites and Minorities.  Better Nebraska State Standards are clearly needed!

Table 2 ranks all of the States by Average Composite Scores on the 2017 ACT tests.  The Average Scores for Nebraska, National, and Texas are essentially the same, hovering around 21.0.  Texas is ranked at No. 29 with an Average Composite Score of 20.7.  Texas has a much higher minority makeup than National (51 % for Texas vs. 30 % for National), yet Texas is essentially identical to National on the ACT test scores.

Why is Nebraska being compared with Texas? 

Texas has very strong Type #1 State Standards, while Nebraska has very weak Type #2 State Standards.  Because the same “yardstick” (ACT tests) is being used for both Nebraska and Texas, the comparison is valid and quite revealing. 

Texas students are scoring higher than Nebraska students because Texas has much better State Standards! 

The Texas Standards are known as Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS for short).  I have often suggested that the NDE utilize the Texas Standards (TEKS) as a guide for the Nebraska Standards.  The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills are available for numerous subject areas (the blue chapters and titles are live links):

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills by Chapter

 Chapter 110. English Language Arts and Reading
Chapter 111. Mathematics
Chapter 112. Science
Chapter 113. Social Studies 

https://tea.texas.gov/curriculum/teks/

In past Board Meetings, I have recommended that the State Board adopt the Type #1 English Success Standards (ESS).  These are excellent standards; and the work has already been done.  This is a link to the ESS:

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/English.Success.Standards.doc

The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) and State Board of Education should learn from this valid comparison and adopt better State Standards.

 

  1. Performance of Nebraska School Districts on 2017 ACT Tests

The minority population is drastically different for the various school districts in Nebraska.  The minority percentages range from 5 % in some districts to 71 % in others!

Table 10 lists the ACT test scores for the twelve school districts in the Omaha area.  The school districts are ranked by their Average Scores.

 

Table 10 – Nebraska School Districts: Omaha Area – 2017 ACT Scores

(Ranked by Average Scores)

Rank School District No. Students

Tested

English Math Science
    1 Elkhorn P.S.      552   22.5   22.9   23.0
    2 Bennington P.S.      124   22.3   21.8   22.1
    3 Gretna P.S.      278   20.6   21.9   22.3
    4 Millard P.S.   1,703   20.6   21.2   21.5
    5 Douglas County West        75   19.7   21.1   21.1
    6 Westside C.S.      453   19.6   20.0   20.5
    7 Papillion La Vista C.S.      881   19.0   20.2   20.2
    8 Springfield-Platt. C.S.      102   18.2   20.0   19.9
    9 Bellevue P.S.      748   17.8   19.3   19.4
  10 Plattsmouth C.S.      122   16.8   18.3   18.7
  11 Ralston P.S.      249   17.1   17.4   17.9
  12 Omaha P.S.   3,160   15.0   16.2   16.0

Source:

Nebraska Department of Education

http://nep.education.ne.gov/

The Elkhorn Public Schools top the list with excellent ACT scores.  The Omaha Public Schools (OPS) come in last, with much lower scores.  However, these scores must be examined in relation to the minority makeup of the districts.  The Elkhorn Public Schools have 5 % minority students, while the Omaha Public Schools have 60 % minority students.

Table 11 shows the percentages of students who met the College Readiness Benchmarks in English, Math, and Science for the Omaha area school districts.

 

Table 11 – Nebraska School Districts: Omaha Area – 2017 ACT Percentages

(Ranked by Average Scores)

Rank School District No. Students

Tested

English Math Science
    1 Elkhorn P.S.      552   85 %   79 %   81 %
    2 Bennington P.S.      124   85 %   77 %   77 %
    3 Gretna P.S.      278   70 %   70 %   77 %
    4 Millard P.S.   1,703   72 %   67 %   72 %
    5 Douglas County West        75   60 %   67 %   68 %
    6 Westside C.S.      453   68 %   59 %   67 %
    7 Papillion La Vista C.S.      881   61 %   61 %   65 %
    8 Springfield-Platt. C.S.      102   60 %   66 %   61 %
    9 Bellevue P.S.      748   51 %   52 %   57 %
  10 Plattsmouth C.S.      122   36 %   48 %   54 %
  11 Ralston P.S.      249   48 %   36 %   47 %
  12 Omaha P.S.   3,160   32 %   24 %   30 %

Source:

Nebraska Department of Education

http://nep.education.ne.gov/

The Elkhorn Public Schools are doing a respectable job of preparing students for college; 79 % to 85 % of the students met the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks.  OPS students are far from being College Ready!

Table 12 lists the 2017 ACT Scores for the twelve largest “Outstate Nebraska” school districts (in English, Math, and Science).

Minority membership must be considered in each case.  For example, the Grand Island Public Schools have a minority student population of 55 % (50 % Hispanic) and the South Sioux City Community Schools have 71 % minorities (65 % Hispanic).

 

Table 12 – Nebraska School Districts: Outstate Nebraska – 2017 ACT Scores

(Ranked by Average Scores)

Rank School District No. Students

Tested

English Math Science
    1 Blair C.S.      186   19.7   21.2   21.6
    2 Lincoln P.S.   2,716   17.8   19.0   19.0
    3 Columbus P.S.      278   17.3   18.6   19.5
    4 Kearney P.S.      348   17.4   19.1   18.7
    5 Hastings P.S.      261   17.3   18.6   18.4
    6 Norfolk P.S.      311   16.6   18.6   18.1
    7 Fremont P.S.      309   16.5   18.3   18.3
    8 North Platte P.S.      287   16.3   17.7   18.0
    9 Scottsbluff P.S.      251   16.5   17.5   17.4
  10 Grand Island P.S.      567   15.4   17.8   17.5
  11 Lexington P.S.      218   16.1   17.0   17.2
  12 South Sioux City C.S.      261   15.8   17.0   16.9

Source:

Nebraska Department of Education

http://nep.education.ne.gov/

Table 13 provides the percentages of students who met the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in English, Math, and Science.

 

Table 13– Nebraska School Districts: Outstate – 2017 ACT Percentages

(Ranked by Average Scores)

Rank School District No. Students

Tested

English Math Science
    1 Blair C.S.      186   63 %   68 %   76 %
    2 Lincoln P.S.   2,716   54 %   53 %   56 %
    3 Columbus P.S.      278   45 %   42 %   55 %
    4 Kearney P.S.      348   48 %   53 %   55 %
    5 Hastings P.S.      261   46 %   46 %   47 %
    6 Norfolk P.S.      311   42 %   46 %   43 %
    7 Fremont P.S.      309   43 %   45 %   50 %
    8 North Platte P.S.      287   36 %   39 %   46 %
    9 Scottsbluff P.S.      251   43 %   37 %   43 %
  10 Grand Island P.S.      567   30 %   37 %   40 %
  11 Lexington P.S.      218   43 %   37 %   37 %
  12 South Sioux City C.S.      261   37 %   32 %   34 %

Source:

Nebraska Department of Education

http://nep.education.ne.gov/

Most students in the Blair Community Schools are prepared for college; the same cannot be said for the other school districts.

Table 14 lists the 24 large School Districts in Nebraska.  The school districts are ranked by their Average Scores on the 2017 ACT tests.  [Note: Norris School District, Beatrice Public Schools, and Schuyler Community Schools are in the 24 largest school districts but are not included in this list.]

 

Table 14 – Nebraska School Districts Ranked by 2017 ACT Scores

(Ranked by Average Scores)

Rank School District Average

ACT

Score

No.

Students

Tested

District

Enrollment

(Membership)

    1 Elkhorn P.S.   22.8     552     8,685
    2 Bennington P.S.   22.1     124     2,367
    3 Gretna P.S.   21.6     278     4,688
    4 Millard P.S.   21.1 1,703   23,980
    5 Blair C.S.   20.8     186     2,326
    6 Douglas County West   20.6       75        918
    7 Westside C.S.   20.0     453     5,999
    8 Papillion La Vista C.S.   19.8     881   11,744
    9 Springfield-Platteview   19.4     102     1,162
  10 Bellevue C.S.   18.8     748   10,028
  11 Lincoln P.S.   18.6 2,716   40,109
  12 Columbus P.S.   18.5     278     3,891
  13 Kearney P.S.   18.4     348     5,604
  14 Hastings P.S.   18.1     261     3,707
  15 Plattsmouth C.S.   17.9     122     1,717
  16 Norfolk P.S.   17.8     311     4,322
  17 Fremont P.S.   17.7     309     4,747
  18 Ralston P.S.   17.5     249     3,363
  19 North Platte P.S.   17.3     287     4,227
  20 Scottsbluff P.S.   17.1     251     3,438
  21 Grand Island P.S.   16.9     567     9,905
  22 Lexington P.S.   16.8     218     3,054
  23 South Sioux City C.S.   16.6     261     3,883
  24 Omaha P.S.   15.7 3,160   52,344

Source for District Enrollment (Membership):

“Statistics and Facts about Nebraska Schools – 2016 – 2017”

http://drs.education.ne.gov/quickfacts/District%20and%20School%20Information/Statistics%20and%20Facts%20about%20Nebraska%20Schools/2016-17%20Statistics%20and%20Facts%20about%20Nebraska%20Schools.pdf

 

The Elkhorn Public Schools head the list with an Average Score of 22.8.  The Omaha Public Schools (OPS) are ranked No. 24, based on their Average ACT Score of 15.7.  Bear in mind that Elkhorn P.S. has only 5 % minority students and OPS has 60 % minority students! 

Table 15 lists the minority membership for the eight largest public school districts in Nebraska; the 15th largest district is also shown.

 

Table 15 – Nebraska School District Minority Membership

(Listed by District enrollment size)

Size

Rank

 

School District

All Students Whites Blacks Hispanics
No. % No. % No. % No. %
    1 Omaha P.S. 52,344 100 14,616 28 13,232 25 18,252 35
    2 Lincoln P.S. 40,109 100 26,794 67   2,563   6   5,421 14
    3 Millard P.S. 23,980 100 18,832 79      781   3   1,946   8
    4 Papillion La Vista 11,744 100   9,296 79      604   5   1,003   9
    5 Bellevue P.S. 10,028 100   7,003 70      837   8   1,327 13
    6 Grand Island P.S.   9,905 100   4,222 43      491   5   4,928 50
    7 Elkhorn P.S.   8,685 100   7,642 88      130   1      315   4
    8 Westside C.S.   5,999 100   4,378 73      535   9      420   7
  15 South Sioux City   3,883 100      798 20      222   6   2,513 65

Source:

Nebraska Department of Education

http://nep.education.ne.gov/

The Omaha Public Schools (OPS) are the largest public school district in the State.  The 15th largest school district in Nebraska are the South Sioux City Community Schools.  At 71 %, South Sioux City Community Schools have the highest minority makeup in Nebraska (6 % + 65 % = 71 %); the District’s Hispanic population hits 65 %.  The Omaha Public Schools have nearly the largest minority population at 60 % (25 % + 35 % = 60 %).  Blacks make up 25 % and Hispanics make up 35 % of the student population in OPS. 

The Grand Island Public Schools have a very high minority membership, at 55 %.  Hispanic students account for 50 % of the students in the District; Blacks are 5 %.

The Omaha Public Schools are similar to Texas in the minority makeup of the schools.  OPS has 25 % Blacks and 35 % Hispanics (total of 60 % minorities).  Texas has 10 % Blacks and 41 % Hispanics (total of 51 % minorities).  OPS has a higher minority makeup than National.  National has 13 % Blacks and 17 % Hispanics, for a total of 30 % minorities.

Table 16 compares the ACT Scores for National, Nebraska, Texas, Elkhorn Public Schools, and Omaha Public Schools.

 

Table 16 – Comparison of ACT Average Scores for Several Jurisdictions

(Average 2017 ACT Scores)

Student Group

 

Average

Score

English

Score

Math

Score

Science

Score

National     21.0   20.3   20.7   21.0
Nebraska     21.4   20.9   20.9   21.5
Texas     20.7   19.5   20.7   20.9
Elkhorn P.S.     22.8   22.5   22.5   23.0
Omaha P.S.     15.7   15.0   15.0   16.0

 

Even though the Omaha Public Schools have roughly the same minority content as the State of Texas (60 % in OPS vs. 51 % in Texas), the two jurisdictions have significantly different ACT test scores.  The Average Score was 20.7 in Texas vs. 15.7 for Omaha Public Schools.  Texas students scored higher across the board in the subject areas.   For example, Texas students had an English Score of 19.5, while OPS students had an English Score of 15.0.

How about the College Readiness Benchmarks?   The ACT test results show that 32 % of OPS students met the English College Readiness Benchmark, while 57 % of the Texas students met the English Benchmark.

Clearly the Omaha Public Schools need drastic improvements in student performance!  It will take more than a new District Superintendent to elevate the Omaha Public Schools out of their low student achievement predicament!

 

CONCLUSION

Various national tests are available to measure student achievement and progress.  Because the NAEP, SAT, and PSAT tests are aligned with the Common Core Standards, Nebraska should avoid these tests.  Likewise, the ACT Aspire test is aligned with Common Core and should be avoided.

Nebraska should continue using the ACT test, even though it has many Common Core elements.

A new alternative to the ACT and SAT college entrance exams is the Classic Learning Test (CLT).  Through this test, students in non-Common Core states and students who receive a classical education are not placed at a disadvantage on college entrance exams.

Numerous colleges are already accepting the CLT (Classic Learning Test) for admission.  The current list includes 88 colleges and universities across the country and in Canada.  Some of the institutions include: Hillsdale College, Liberty University, and The Kings College.

ACT measured the Percent of Students Who Met College Readiness Benchmarks over a five-year period from 2013 to 2017.  The five-year trend shows:

          English percentages dropped from 71 % in 2013 to 67 % in 2017.

          Reading percentages increased from 48 % in 2013 to 50 % in 2017.

          Math percentages dropped from 46 % in 2013 to 42% in 2017.

          Science percentages remained at 41% in 2013 and 2017.

In 2017, only 28 % of Nebraska students met all four College Readiness Benchmarks! 

In the 2017 ACT tests, 18,993 students took the tests.  This amounts to 84 % of Nebraska high school graduates.  This percentage ranks Nebraska at the No. 21 spot on percentage of graduates tested. 

Because of this high 84 % participation rate, the ACT results for Nebraska provide an accurate gauge of the total student population.  

The achievement gaps between white students and minorities are very troubling.  In Nebraska, the White-Black achievement gap in Composite Scale Score is 4.8; and the White-Hispanic gap is 4.0.  These equate to achievement gaps of 21 % for Blacks and 18 % for Hispanics.

The State Board of Education, Nebraska Department of Education, and Nebraska educators should be very concerned about these huge achievement gaps between Whites and Minorities.  Type #1 instead of Type #2 curriculum standards in Nebraska are clearly needed!

The State of Texas has very good Type #1 Standards in their Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). 

The comparison between Nebraska and Texas test scores must consider a few variables, one of which is the difference in minority percentages.  Nebraska has 4 % Blacks vs. 10 % for Texas; and Nebraska has 13 % Hispanics vs. 41 % for Texas.  Combining Blacks and Hispanics, Nebraska has only 17 % minority students, while Texas has 51 % minorities.  

To avoid an “apples and oranges” comparison between Nebraska and Texas, look at the ACT test scores for White students in each state.  The Average Composite Score for Whites is 23.2 for Texas vs. 22.4 for Nebraska. In every subject, White Texas students scored higher than White Nebraska students!

Texas has very strong Type #1 State Standards, while Nebraska has very weak Type #2 State Standards.  Because the same “yardstick” (ACT tests) is being used for both Nebraska and Texas, the comparison is valid and quite revealing. 

Texas students are scoring higher than Nebraska students because Texas has much better State Standards! 

If the NDE and State Board of Education are serious about improving educational outcomes for Nebraska students, they will write and adopt Type #1 education standards.

Among the largest school districts in Nebraska, the Elkhorn Public Schools and the Bennington Public Schools are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on the 2017 ACT tests.  At the bottom of the list, the South Sioux City Community Schools and the Omaha Public Schools hold the No. 23 and No. 24 positions, respectively.

The minority student population for each school district should be considered when comparing the performance of the districts.

=============================

Bio for Henry W. Burke

 

Henry Burke is a Civil Engineer with a B.S.C.E. and M.S.C.E.  He has been a Registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) for 37 years and has worked as a Civil Engineer in construction for over 40 years. 

Mr. Burke had a successful 27-year career with a large construction company. 

Henry Burke served as a full-time volunteer to oversee various construction projects. He has written numerous articles on education, engineering, construction, politics, taxes, and the economy.

Henry W. Burke

E-mail:  hwburke@cox.net

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