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My Way


Yes, the ACT is important and we all should be worried



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April 27, 2011 - I don't care what some educational expert says, the fact that only 18.3 percent of Oxford High School's Class of 2011 are considered college-ready based on their ACT scores is absolutely frightening.

As a parent, I am outraged and deeply concerned that less than one-fifth of our current crop of high school seniors met the following minimum scores on the ACT – 18 on English; 21 on reading; 22 on math; and 24 on science.

Gov. Rick Snyder feels the same way about the fact that only 16 percent of Michigan's high school seniors are college-ready based on the ACT.

"The numbers are truly scary. Anything less than 100 percent is not good enough," said Snyder, speaking at the Governor's Education Summit at Michigan State University.

Now, I think 100 percent is completely unrealistic, but I'm glad he's at least as concerned about this as I am and he's not making any excuses for these abysmal results.

By definition, the ACT test "assesses high school students' general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work."

Whichever way the education experts want to spin things, whatever intangible factors they want to lump into the mix, they can't change the fact that the first thing, the main thing most universities and colleges look at is that ACT score.

In the admissions process, the ACT is king because universities and colleges know that while class grades vary from teacher to teacher, district to district and state to state, the ACT score is a consistent and accurate measurement.

A composite ACT score of 28 means the same thing in Oxford, Michigan as it does in New York, Los Angeles or Tuscumbia, Alabama. Oxford Superintendent Dr. William Skilling knows the importance of doing well on the ACT.

"The reason I care more about the ACT (is) because it's a true norm reference test that's valid and a true predictor of future success," said Skilling in a July 2009 interview with this paper. "What's really important to us is that ACT because that's what determines scholarships; that determines what students have access to in terms of what schools they can get into or not."

And you know what? Skilling's absolutely correct.

I agree with his statements 100 percent.

Skilling knows how vital the ACT is, so why did the district feel compelled to bring in an expert to basically explain that the ACT is just one of many factors to consider when looking at college-readiness and college success?

Would the district have felt it necessary to bring in an expert to basically downplay the link between the ACT and college-readiness if Oxford had 48.8 percent college-ready like Birmingham Seaholm or 43.3 percent like Troy?

I highly doubt it. In fact, had Oxford been among the top 10 high schools in Oakland County (instead of 28th) in terms of college-readiness, there would have been a press release from the district trumpeting it – maybe even a special assembly or a parade down Main Street.

If Skilling knows that the ACT is "a true predictor of future success," why is School Board President Colleen Schultz making statements like this:

"As the mother of two college students, I am well aware of all the variables that affect college performance that are not tied to ACT scores – living away from home, meeting new people, self-discipline and maturity level of individual students. From that standpoint, I'm not sure that the study's definition of college ready (i.e. ACT scores) is a reliable predictor of college success."

Yes, there are a variety of other factors – personal factors that cannot be quantified – that go into whether or not a student will succeed at college.

But the only tangible, unbiased way we can measure if our public educational system is doing its job of preparing students for college in terms of knowledge and critical-thinking skills is by looking at those ACT scores.

"The ACT is curriculum-based," according to www.act.org. "The ACT is not an aptitude or an IQ test. Instead, the questions on the ACT are directly related to what students have learned in high school courses in English, mathematics, and science."

How can we honestly call ourselves a "world-class" school district and boast that the "globe is our campus," when less than one-fifth of our high school seniors are achieving minimum scores on the ACT?

Why is this district busy establishing an international high school in China when 81.7 percent of the high school seniors here in Oxford are not meeting the minimum scores on a critical test that determines where they'll go to college and what scholarships they'll receive?

It's time to stop worrying about marketing the district, keeping up with the latest educational trends, grabbing headlines and trotting the globe. It's time to start worrying about academics and our children's futures.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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