BY STATE SENATOR LARRY TEAGUE –
LITTLE ROCK – The results of this year’s ACT tests are now available. They’re the commonly used standardized tests for college admission.
Arkansas high school seniors averaged a composite score of 20.4 out of a possible 36. That is the same average score as last year. Nationwide, the average score was 21, and it too is the same as last year.
Although Arkansas students scored slightly below the national average, there were very encouraging results from this year’s testing — 93 percent of Arkansas seniors took the test. That is significantly higher than the national average of 59 percent.
It is well known among educators that scores tend to go down when the pool of test takers goes up. Nationally, the students who took the ACT are from the higher academic ranks and they have specific plans to attend college.
In Arkansas, the fact that virtually the entire graduating class took the test is a clear indication that many of our high school seniors were potential first-generation college students, according to the state’s Education Commissioner.
For years it has been a goal of legislators, educators and business leaders to encourage more Arkansas students to pursue a post-secondary degree. A related goal is to help students complete their degree requirements after they have enrolled as freshmen. For financial and other reasons, too many students leave college before earning a degree.
Educators are optimistic that average ACT scores will improve over the next few years, for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that more students are choosing to take a rigorous, college preparatory curriculum.
Also, students are taking standardized tests in science more frequently, so they are less likely to get off track. Previously, they took tests in fifth, seventh and tenth grades. From now on they will take them every year from third to tenth grades.
The number of test takers is expected to increase because next year high school juniors will have the option of taking the ACT for free.
As the Education Commissioner said, when students stick to a rigorous curriculum of math and science, not only do their test scores improve but their opportunities to get well paying jobs improve.
Children and Family Services
The governor announced that he would ask for legislative approval of a $1 million transfer from the state’s rainy day fund so that the Division of Children and Family Services could hire an additional 40 employees.
The 40 employees would include 29 case workers, seven administrative support staff and four supervisors. Adding the employees would bring down the average work load, which is now 27 per case worker. The governor cited a national study that recommended bringing the average case load down to 15 cases per social worker, so that they can maximize their effectiveness and avoid burnout.
The Division investigates allegations of abuse and neglect, and recruits foster parents for children who do not have a safe home.
The state is recruiting foster parents to meet a growing need. This year the number of children needing placement in a foster home grew from about 3,800 to about 4,400.