Hispanic Students Show Increase in College Readiness

Posted August 18, 2010

IOWA CITY, Iowa—Growing numbers of Hispanic U.S. high school graduates have taken the ACT college admission and placement exam, and they are making progress in becoming college and career ready, according to the ACT College and Career Readiness report released today. At the same time, the findings point to considerable room for improvement in college and career readiness among Hispanic students.

Eleven percent of ACT-tested 2010 Hispanic high school graduates met all four of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, which are linked to success in specific first-year college courses. That figure is up from nine percent in 2006, even as the number of Hispanic students who took the exam nearly doubled since that time, increasing by almost 84 percent. Close to 158,000 Hispanic 2010 graduates took the ACT among the nearly 1.6 million high school graduates tested across the nation, compared to fewer than 86,000 Hispanic test-takers five years ago.

Greatly Expanding Pool of ACT-Tested Hispanic Students

Ethnic/racial minority students this year made up 29 percent of all ACT-tested graduates, up from 23 percent in 2006. Hispanic test-takers represented the largest increase among all high school graduates who have taken the college admission and placement test since 2006, a sign that plans to attend college are a growing trend among Hispanic students.

“The rapidly growing number of Hispanic students taking the ACT and thinking about attending college in recent years is truly impressive,” said Cynthia B. Schmeiser, ACT’s Education Division president and chief operating officer. “The finding that more Hispanic students are meeting the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks is particularly encouraging in that light. However, we can’t ignore the fact that far too many Hispanic graduates are ill-prepared to succeed in college and career academically, and that much work must be done to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for the next step.”

Hispanic college and career readiness rates still lag

While slightly higher this year, the percentage of Hispanic students who met all four of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks still lags behind when compared with the entire pool of test-takers. Twenty-four percent of all ACT-tested 2010 high school graduates met or surpassed all four of ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks, including 39 percent of Asian American graduates, 30 percent of White students, 12 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native graduates and 4 percent of African American students.

The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, based on actual grades earned by students in college, give ACT the unique ability to define college and career readiness and report student performance results relative to that goal. The benchmarks specify the minimum score needed on each ACT subject-area test 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 first-year, credit-bearing college course in that subject area (English composition, college algebra, introductory social science, and biology).

The percent of Hispanic graduates who meet or surpass the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks is the highest in English (46 percent), followed by reading (34 percent), mathematics (27 percent) and science (14 percent). About half of Hispanic high school graduates did not met any of the four ACT benchmark scores.

This year’s average ACT composite score among Hispanic graduates was 18.6, down one-tenth of a point from the past three years but unchanged from 2006.

High School Course Selection Vital

The level of academic preparation is a key element for high school graduates becoming ready for college and career. Sixty-eight percent of Hispanic ACT-tested graduates took at least the recommended minimum core curriculum in high school—four years of English and three years each of mathematics, science, and social studies. Those students were approximately twice as likely as those who took less than the core curriculum to meet or surpass the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in each subject area.

“We can’t stress strongly enough how important high school course selection is in the college and career readiness process,” said Schmeiser. “However, there are still far too many Hispanic students who are not taking rigorous core classes that provide the academic skills needed to succeed in college and career.”

“To ensure the high caliber of tomorrow’s workforce and civic leadership, we need to make sure many more Hispanic students are prepared to earn a college degree by addressing the educational achievement of this vital, fast growing community. And that can be done by our students preparing a high school coursework plan that is consistent with their career goals, having the opportunity to take rigorous courses in high school that prepare them for college-level coursework, graduating from college and becoming contributing members of our society,” said Sarita Brown, president, Excelencia in Education.

2010 ACT National and State Scores