The Department of Education reported to the Government Operations and Audit Committee yesterday that while South Dakota’s average ACT score has slid from 21.9 for the 2018 graduating class to 21.5 for the class of 2022, we’re still posting a better average ACT score than our neighbors:
Wow, South Dakota actually does better than Minnesota on something? That’s news!
Except educator and statistically proficient Senator Reynold Nesiba pointed our that it isn’t:
Another appropriations member, Senator Reynold Nesiba, a Sioux Falls Democrat, noted that ACT numbers aren’t an apples to apples comparison because South Dakota had 58% participation while Wyoming was 100% and Nebraska 94%. Stadick Smith said there’s conversation about using ACT as a replacement for the grade 11 statewide assessment [Bob Mercer, “South Dakota Students’ Academics Suffered Amid Covid-19,” KELO-TV, 2022.12.05].
(Academic Nesiba may read Mercer’s headline and point out to Mercer that academics always suffer in South Dakota.)
The state’s slide fails to point out the differences in ACT participation rates. The participation effect is severe enough that one author says, “any state rankings fundamentally mislead the public when presented as measures of education quality within that state,” as the Department of Education did in its October 12 press release.
If participation rates mean we shouldn’t compare South Dakota apples to Minnesota oranges, we should probably be careful about comparing fruits to nuts in state. But the DOE’s slide notes that while South Dakota’s average ACT score is 21.5, South Dakota’s public schools averaged 21.6. Hmmm… that means South Dakota’s private schools must be bringing down the average. Anyone want to put that in a headline?