Latest ACT Report Provides Grim Details About College Readiness

According to data released by testing company ACT, nearly a third of students who took the company’s exams last year are not ready to tackle college-level work, especially in mathematics, biology, writing and algebra. The report looks at how many test-takers met the company’s college-readiness benchmarks, and while levels of preparedness in individual subjects were as high as 64%, a meager 26% met all four of the benchmarks.

The report contains mixed news when it comes to comparing this year’s results to those of last year. Although a higher percentage of students demonstrated college-level proficiency in science – up by 5 points to 36% – the number of students who met the reading benchmark declined by 6 points to 44%. The results in the remaining two benchmarks, mathematics and science, remained flat.

The readiness gap between white and minority students also persists. Only 34% of African-American students demonstrated proficiency in English, while 76% of white students did likewise.

Just over 4 in 10 (43%) Asian graduates met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in 2013, a higher rate than that of graduates from all other racial/ethnic groups. African American graduates were least likely to meet the Benchmarks—5% met all four. Students from most racial/ethnic groups were most likely to meet the English Benchmark and least likely to meet the Science Benchmarks. In three of the four subject areas, Benchmarks were met by 50% or more of Asian and White students, while one was met by 50% or more of Pacific Islander students. None of the Benchmarks were met by 50% or more of African American, American Indian, or Hispanic students.

ACT’s report signals that America’s ongoing remediation problem is unlikely to be solved in the near future. With so few high school graduates deemed ready for college-level work, remedial courses offered by schools around the country will continue to run at capacity, further hindering the goal set by the Obama administration to have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world.

ACT’s report also provides some numbers relating to prospective college students’ employment aspirations post college, and finds some troubling news in that data as well.

For each of the 2020 projected five fastest growing career fields, less than half of the 2013 high school graduates interested in careers in these fields met the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in Science, and in only one field, Computer/Information Specialties, did 50% or more meet the Mathematics Benchmark. Within each of the five career fields, fewer than 50% of the 2013 graduates met all four Benchmarks; though graduates interested in Computer/Information Specialties field were close to doing so. Across all five career fields, graduates were most likely to meet the English Benchmark and least likely to meet the Science Benchmark.