ACT Cut Scores… A Warm Fuzzy or A Brick Wall?

The last several days, I’ve been wondering if part of the problem with getting folks to understand why Louisiana’s admission criteria are so flawed, particularly their over-reliance on ACT cut scores, isn’t one of familiarity.

Those in public primary and secondary education have no problem understanding what’s wrong with PARCC and most of the gazillion other NCLB and RTTT required standardized tests we abuse our kids with every day.

But the ACT? It’s been around forever. Most of us remember taking it 10, 20, 30 or more years ago.

And even among my peers in higher education, we’ve complained about the ACT cut scores used for admission in our state and the fact that the subscores only are meant to measure the probability a student will get a C in certain general education classes, but are NOT a predictor of success in college, particularly beyond the freshman year. But no one has seriously questioned whether they should be used at all.

It has taken almost five years since the admission requirements were first announced for me to get people to realize that our students are not the problem, our universities are not the problem, and that the number of students we recruit is not the problem.

The admission criteria are the problem. Particularly the ACT cut scores.

A funny thing happened though on the way to ensuring that Louisiana’s black and brown kids and kids in poverty go to two year schools.

One thing did happen that was projected, and I argue was engineered. Enrollments are down at regional schools, especially Louisiana’s HBCUs.

BUT… students are not going to the community colleges, or at least not to all of them.

Why? We didn’t do anything to build them up. We defunded them too, and they don’t have enough resources to take care of the students they have. In Jindal’s logic, they *should* have had more students because they don’t qualify for four-year universities, so they *should* get more funding (from tuition and fees of course, not from the state). But students are resisting going and their enrollments are going down too.

Students aren’t stupid.

They’ve been tested and tested and tested and tested and tested. One of two things will happen.

They won’t care and will go to school out of state.


They won’t care and won’t go to school at all. I mean, after years of being tested and tested and tested and tested and tested wouldn’t you want to be done with school too?

To them, the ACT is just another high stakes test among a gazillion other equally high stakes tests.

To us, the ACT is a warm fuzzy blanket that does no harm.

It just keeps our Louisiana kids out of college, that’s all.


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