Is the USOE lying about ACT results?

For many years the USOE has touted how great Utah is for standardized test scores.  This past year they ran a pilot program paying for most of Utah’s students to take the ACT as an assessment test. It appears that about 97% of students took the test, and as expected, our state’s scores dropped with all the people taking the exam who normally wouldn’t.

Judy Park, Associate Superintendent at the Utah State Office of Education was quoted as saying in a KSL article, “We’re thrilled and pleased that the decrease is as small as it is and compared to other states we’ve done very well,” she said.

The USOE then proceeds to tell how we’re ahead of almost all comparable states that have more than 95% of their students take the ACT.

What’s amazing is that for several years the USOE has been very well aware of a fact that they don’t report.  At least since February 2006 and a few big reminders since then, they have known that these aggregated scores don’t represent reality. Utah’s population is over 80% Caucasian. Minorities typically score less on standardized tests. When you take a weighted average score of 80% of the population outscoring the minorities, it’s going to tend to skew the figures toward a higher average. Comparing our weighted average to other states with sometimes significantly higher minority populations is an unfair comparison and puts us above national average, when the reality is that Utah is much lower than national average when just comparing each group demographically. The Deseret News blew the lid on this in 2007 where they told the truth that Utah was dead last in rankings.

The USOE’s recent report caused the media to report this concerning our overall scores:

“Utah’s scores ranked second behind Illinois and tied with North Dakota when compared to the 10 states where more than 95 percent of students took the test, according to the report.”

The truth is not quite so pretty. Dr. David Wright at BYU provided this table to me after he compared just math scores. Overall with math, Utah ranks 4th, but that doesn’t portray the sad picture that our minorities are falling way behind. Hispanics/Latinos in Utah scored at the bottom of the 10 states, and most other minority groups performed very poorly as well. Clearly Utah has work to do and we are not doing as well as the USOE likes to tout.

Math ACT AVERAGECOILLAKYMIMSNDTNUTWYUtah Rank
Black/African American17.517.317.616.916.316.516.716.417.017.55
American Indian/Alaska Native18.018.918.917.517.816.817.217.817.017.59
White21.822.721.019.720.919.621.419.921.020.6tied for 4th
Hispanic/Latino17.918.920.018.418.418.718.418.117.818.210
Asian22.825.523.523.524.722.721.623.222.424.09
Native Hawaiian/Other Pac. Isl.19.821.318.918.319.418.219.819.217.717.69
Two or more races20.821.319.819.219.318.420.319.420.020.0
Prefer not/No Response19.819.920.118.719.518.720.218.519.419.5
All Students20.521.019.919.420.118.321.019.120.320.24

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