College and career readiness remains a significant problem in the United States with 60 percent of 2012 ACT-tested high school graduates at risk. New initiatives are under way at ACT to reverse this trend.
More than half of the 1.66 million 2012 US graduates52 percenttook the ACT Test this year. This represents a record level of participation for the eighth consecutive year.
More than a fourth (28 percent) did not meet any of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in English, mathematics, reading, and science, suggesting they are likely to struggle in first-year college courses in all four of those subject areas.
Another 15 percent met only one of the benchmarks, while 17 percent met just two. In short, a total of 60 percent of test takers met no more than two of the four benchmarks.
Only 25 percent of tested 2012 grads met all four ACT benchmarks, unchanged from last year.
Far too many students are still falling short academically. We need to do more to ensure that our young people improve, said ACT CEO Jon Whitmore. The advanced global economy requires American students to perform at their highest level to compete in the future job market and maintain the long-term economic security of the United States.
There is some encouraging news. Although fewer than half (46 percent) of ACT-tested graduates achieved the benchmark in math, and only a third (31 percent) achieved the benchmark in science, each of these figures has increased by 3 percentage points overall since 2008.
Two-thirds (67 percent) of examinees met or surpassed the benchmark in English, while just more than half (52 percent) met the benchmark in reading. These levels have been relatively flat over the past five years.
More than half of the African American and Hispanic students taking the ACT did not meet any of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. In contrast, the majority of Asian American and white students met or surpassed the benchmarks in all areas except science.
ACT data also point to the disconnect between the types of careers that students are interested in pursuing and the types of jobs likely to be available to them. The percentage of ACTtested graduates interested in careers in the five fastest growing fields was less than the projected demand for workers in each case. According to the US Department of Labor, the five fastest growing fields are education, computer/information specialties, community services, management, and marketing/sales.
ACT is committing our resources and efforts to help improve college and career readiness, said Whitmore. We are creating a road map to success for individuals from kindergarten through career, offering connected insights that help people master the skills they need throughout their lives.
Part of ACTs new reach involves ACT Aspire, which will provide insights on multiple measures of readiness, including achievement, behaviors, and goals. These insights will help students, parents, and educators get and keep students on track for success starting at an early age and continuing through high school graduation. ACT research points to the importance of early monitoring and intervention to identify students who are at risk.
The new system is built on ACT College Readiness Standards. It will be aligned with the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics, but will also go beyond the Common Core Standards, providing information on science achievement, career indicators, and student behaviors and goals. The system will be linked to ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, which are aligned with rigorous international standards such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to ensure US competitiveness.