A bill moving through the Mississippi legislature aims at setting floors on ACT scores for college students aspiring to become teachers. The current bill in the Mississippi Senate requires 60 percent of students to score 21 or above on the ACT. The percentage would rise to 80 percent by 2017-18. The current version, offered by Republican senator Gray Tollison, softens an earlier bill that would have required all teacher prep candidates to earn at least a 21 on the ACT and faces competition from another version that would strip all ACT requirements.
Good idea? Here are a few facts. A 21 on the ACT is the 55th percentile of test takers. Scores in Mississippi run about three points lower than national scores. (Don’t jump to a prejudiced conclusion. More students take the ACT in Mississippi than in other states, so we would expect the Mississippi average to be pulled down by more non-college-bound students.) In Mississippi, a 21 is the 76th percentile of test takers.
Remember that the all-test-taker comparison group is high school seniors; the typical scores of college students will be higher. Using national data from Baccalaureate and Beyond, I find that 72 percent of graduating college seniors and 64 percent of graduating ed majors score 21 or better. The Mississippi numbers are probably a bit lower, but it looks like most Mississippi colleges probably already come pretty close to meeting the required 60-percent-21-or-above mark.
So my guesstimate is that Senator Tollison’s rule will have not have much short-run impact on Mississippi teacher training, but over the next couple of years will force ed schools there to raise standards significantly.
Seems pretty reasonable, no?