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Updating an earlier post: Madison’s average ACT score dipped last year to the lowest level since 1995, according to state and district records.

Madison's average score of 23.7 out of 36 was still well above the state average of 22.1 and national average of 21.1 among 2012 graduates.

State records go back to 1996 and differ slightly from Madison records, but show last year's average score was the lowest during that period. Madison records go back to 1995 when the average score was 23.5.

Madison's scores once again highlight the achievement gap — white students scored 7.4 points higher than black students and 4.8 points higher than Hispanic students, according to the Department of Public Instruction.

Madison plans to offer the ACT to all 11th graders this upcoming school year as part of its achievement gap plan. As I mentioned in my earlier post, it remains to be seen how that will affect scores, but it will likely cause them to go lower.

Madison’s participation rate last year was 56.9 percent, down from a peak of 64.2 percent in 1996, according to DPI. Madison reported their participation rate as 67 percent last year, which ties the lowest mark in multiple years going back to 1995. DPI's rate is based on a fall enrollment figure, which means it includes dropouts, whereas Madison's rate is based on 2012 graduates, which is what ACT reports.

Since Milwaukee made the test available for all 11th and 12th graders in 2010, the participation rate has increased from 48 percent in 2009 to 85 percent last year, representing an additional 1,500 test-takers. Meanwhile, the average score dropped from 17.3 in 2009 to 15.9 last year.


Wisconsin's ACT scores remain among the top in the nation, though it will be interesting to see where the state ranks in future years if all 11th graders are required to take the college readiness test.

Wisconsin's composite score of 22.1 out of 36 ranked second behind Minnesota among states with a high percentage of students taking the test. The composite score was a point ahead of the national average, and not much different from scores going back to 2007.

ACT also measures whether students are prepared for college based on their scores in English, reading, math and science. Three in 10 Wisconsin students who took the test were prepared in all four categories, while two in 10 weren't prepared in any.

Among Wisconsin's class of 2012, 71 percent took the ACT as a sophomore, junior or senior. Ten states now require all students to take the test: Colorado (beginning in 2001), Illinois (2001), Kentucky (2007), Louisiana (2013), Michigan (2005), Montana (2013), North Carolina (2012), North Dakota (2009), Tennessee (2009) and Wyoming (2007).

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction requested funding two years ago to have all 11th graders take the test and will likely do so again this fall, spokesman John Johnson said. The estimated cost in 2011 was $1.6 million shared equally between the state and local districts.

Update: Gov. Scott Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor would have to look at the specific impact of the proposal before committing to anything. His next biennial budget proposal is due out early next year.

Wisconsin's ACT average score would likely decline if all students took the test because those who aren't taking it would score lower.

Participation rates among minority students, though increasing, is still a few percentage points behind proportional representation for the state. Black student scores were seven points behind scores of white students and Hispanic student scores were four points behind.

One in three white students were college ready in all four subjects tested, compared with 13 percent of Hispanic students and 5 percent of black students.

In 2010, Milwaukee schools required the test for all 11th graders, and the state composite score declined two tenths of a point. Scores for black students dipped almost a full point.

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