College and career readiness continues to increase among ACT-tested U.S. high school graduates, according to ACTs annual Condition of College and Career Readiness report for 2011.
Twenty-five percent of graduates in the class of 2011 who took the ACT® test met or surpassed all four of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, suggesting they are ready to succeed academically in specific first-year college courses (English composition, college algebra, introductory social science, and biology) without the need for remediation. This compares to 24 percent last year, marking the third consecutive year that overall college and career readiness has increased.
Terry Holliday, Kentucky Commissioner of Education, discusses ACTs 2011 Condition of College and Career Readiness report, while speaking to an audience of educators at the Jessamine Career and Technology Center in Nicholasville, Kentucky. ACT selected Kentucky as the location for release of the national data and also included information on Kentuckys 2011 graduating seniors. At right are Jessamine County Superintendent Lu Young and ACT Education Division Interim President Jon Erickson. The event included a forum at which Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Robert King, State Representative Carl Rollins, and State Senator Ken Winters discussed the importance of the college and career readiness initiatives in Kentucky. (Photo courtesy of Amy Wallot, Kentucky Department of Education)
The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, which are based on actual grades earned by students in college, specify the minimum scores needed on each ACT subject-area test (English, mathematics, reading, and science) to indicate that a student has a 50 percent chance of earning a grade of B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher in a typical credit-bearing first-year college course in that subject area.
Its encouraging to see the positive trend continuing, with more high school graduates showing they are ready to succeed academically at the next level, said Jon Erickson, interim president of ACTs Education Division. Although growth has been slow, it has been consistent. Things appear to be moving in the right direction.
American students are making incremental progress toward being ready to complete college-level work, but theres still significant work to be done. In todays knowledge-based economy, American children are competing with the rest of the world for jobs, and our countrys long-term economic security is directly tied to the quality of its public education. These ACT results are another sign that states need to raise their academic standards and commit to education reforms that accelerate student achievement.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, commenting on results from ACTs annual Condition of College and Career Readiness report for 2011.
The increase in overall college and career readiness can be attributed to gradual gains in math and science, the two subject areas in which students are least likely to be prepared. This year, 45 percent of test takers (compared to 43 percent last year) met or exceeded the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in math, while 30 percent (compared to 29 percent last year) met or exceeded the benchmark in science. In comparison, 66 percent and 52 percent met or surpassed the benchmarks in English and reading, respectively, both unchanged from last year.
At the same time, the ACT results continue to show an alarmingly high number of students who are graduating without all of the academic skills they need to succeed after high school. Nearly three in 10 test takers (28 percent) in the 2011 graduate class failed to meet any of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, unchanged from last year.
Too many students are still falling through the cracks, said Erickson. Its important that we work hard to ensure that all young people graduate from high school with the skills they need to succeed in college and career.
This years pool of ACT-tested graduates is the largest and most racially diverse in the 52-year history of the exam. More than 1.62 million 2011 graduates49 percent of the entire U.S. graduating classtook the ACT, an all-time record number for the seventh year in a row. The proportion of African American and Hispanic/Latino test takers has grown from 19 percent in 2007 to a high of 26 percent in 2011.
The ACT is an achievement test that measures the academic skills and knowledge learned in school and validated as critical for success in college. Although academic readiness is a crucial factor impacting college and career readiness, ACT research points to three key dimensions of college and career readiness:
Assessing what students have learned so far is a vital element in helping them to improve, but college and career readiness is very complex, said Erickson. With more and more students across the country participating in testing, its important that test results are not overemphasized as a single answer to the readiness problem. We are committed to identifying the various factors that ensure success. The ACT is used for multiple goals and purposes beyond admissions and predicting college outcomes, such as course placement, counseling, and accountability.
The report points to policies and practices that states, districts, and schools can implement to systemically increase the percentage of their students who are ready for college-level work.
If states, districts, and schools will follow these recommendations, our research shows that students will benefit, said Erickson. And when young people benefit, so does our entire country. ACT will continue working hard to help identify solutions to the problems that impact college and career readiness in the United States.