ACT: African American, Low-Income Students Lag on College Benchmarks


A national report by ACT has revealed that African American students are less likely to meet college readiness benchmarks than their peers. Even when they complete all recommended high school courses, they still lag behind in how sufficiently prepared for higher education they are.

The same was observed for American Indian and low-income students.

The report by American College Testing confirms recent progress made in increasing educational attainment. However, it is noted that much work remains before more African American students reach an adequate level of educational achievement and become college ready by the time they graduate high school.

The Iowa city-based testing company says that student effort isn’t enough:

“[E]ven when they are doing what they are supposed to do in terms of taking the recommended college preparatory curriculum and earning a high school diploma, too many lack sufficient preparation for first-year college courses,” Jim Larimore, the chief officer for the advancement of underserved learners at ACT said.

To address this issue, ACT suggests that schools and states make high school core courses more rigorous, begin student performance monitoring in earlier grades, and ensure off-target students get the attention and support they need from educators to keep up with their classmates and graduate with the skills they need.

Among ACT’s recommendations are the implementation of a high quality assessment system, the development of support programs that help students develop academic-success favorable behaviors and making access to key preparation courses easier for students.

According to the ACT report, in 2014 36% of African American students who completed core classes or more were classified as college-ready in English in 2014. The percentage of all students taking core classes or more and being college-ready was 67%.

Despite 86% of American students saying they plan to get into higher education, more than 6 in 10 African American students who graduated in 2014 did not meet any of the ACT benchmarks. The readiness percentage of all students is estimated at just 30%.

In the state of Louisiana, the number of African American students who are not college-ready is still high despite an increase of the ACT average composite score by 0.2 points from 2014 to 2015. A 2012 state policy change mandated that all high school students in the state must take the ACT exam.

The ACT report’s data are drawn from test-takers nationwide and refer to the high school graduating class of 2014.

Apart from African American and American Indian students who struggle to meet college readiness benchmarks, the report also revealed that those coming from poor backgrounds are also lagging.

Fewer than one in five low-income students met the ACT benchmarks in English. Of all low-income graduating students in 2014, 26% met the reading mark with 23% ready in math 18% meeting benchmarks in science. 11% of all low-income students met the benchmarks in all four subjects.