- Percentage of Hispanic grads meeting ACT College Readiness Benchmarks is up in reading, stable in English, math and science even as the number of Hispanic test-takers rapidly expands
- A record number of Hispanic high school graduates—nearly 115,000—took the ACT; increase of 23 percent from 2007; 46 percent increase in past five years
- ACT subject test scores in English and Reading increase
- Average ACT composite score for 2008 Hispanic graduates is 18.7, unchanged from last year
- Improvement still needed in course-taking decisions
IOWA CITY, IOWA—A record number of 2008 Hispanic high school graduates in the U.S. took the ACT college admission and placement exam, while college readiness levels remained unchanged, according to results found in this year’s ACT score report.
The percentage of ACT-tested Hispanics who met or surpassed the College Readiness Benchmark on the ACT Reading Test rose to 35 percent in 2008, up from 34 percent last year, while the percentages who met or surpassed the College Readiness Benchmarks in English (49%), math (26%), and science (13%) remained unchanged compared to last year. These percentages are all higher than they were three years ago (English—48%; math—25%; reading—33%; science—12%).
“We’ve been seeing incremental growth in the percentage of college-ready students in all four subject areas over the past few years,” said Richard L. Ferguson, ACT’s chief executive officer and chairman of the board. “The fact that college readiness levels remained stable this year is encouraging. At the same time, there are still far too many Hispanic high school graduates who are not ready for college-level work. Much work remains to be done to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills they need to succeed at the next level.”
Although more Hispanic students are college-ready now than three years ago, the annual report shows the large majority of Hispanic graduates are still not college-ready in all four subject matter areas: Only 10 percent of 2008 Hispanic graduates met all four of ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks.
ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks are scores on the individual subject tests that indicate whether students are ready to succeed—likely to earn a “C” or higher in specific first-year, credit-bearing college courses in those subject areas. These indicators are more informative and important measures of college readiness than average scores because they provide more detailed information.
Record Number of Hispanic Test-takers
For 2008, nearly 115,000 Hispanic graduates took the ACT college admission and placement exam, a 23 percent increase from 2007. Since 2004, the number of Hispanic high school graduates taking the ACT has increased by 46 percent. Overall, Hispanic students represent 8 percent of ACT test-takers nationally, up from 7 percent in 2007.
The number of Mexican American/Chicano test-takers has increased by 66 percent from 2004, while the number of Puerto Rican/Cuban/Other Hispanic test-takers has increased by 35 percent during that period.
“The continued increase in the number of Hispanic graduates taking the ACT and aspiring to attend a four-year college is welcoming news,” said Ferguson. “We hope that it will translate to increased college access for these students.”
More than 1.42 million 2008 U.S. high school graduates overall took the ACT, an all-time record. This is a 9 percent increase from last year and a 21 percent increase compared to 2004.
Increase in Statewide ACT Testing
The 2008 test-takers included virtually all graduates in three states: Colorado, Illinois and—for the first time—Michigan. These states administer the ACT to all 11th graders as part of their statewide academic assessment programs. Colorado and Illinois began administering the ACT in 2001, while Michigan started in the spring of 2007.
Michigan graduates—including many students who may not have been planning to attend college—accounted for more than a third of the increase in ACT-tested students this year compared to last.
Much of the remaining increase in test-takers overall came from states along the East and West Coasts, where participation has been surging in recent years. Many of these states—including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Oregon—saw double-digit percent increases in the number of their graduates taking the ACT.
More States Testing All Graduates
The overall pool of ACT-tested students will grow even broader next year, when, for the first time, nearly all graduates in both Kentucky and Wyoming will be included. Both states began administering the ACT to their 11th grade public school students as part of mandatory academic assessment programs this past spring, bringing the national total of states providing the ACT to all students to five. (In Wyoming, students have the option of taking either the ACT or ACT’s WorkKeys® exams, which measure workforce-related skills.)
An increasing number of school districts in other states around the country are also implementing initiatives designed to provide the ACT to all of their students as a measure of college readiness and as a part of efforts to increase both college preparation and college-going rates, especially for underrepresented populations.
“The greater use of the ACT in testing programs around the country shows the increasing commitment of states and school districts to ensuring that all students graduate from high school with college-ready skills,” said Ferguson. “These testing programs can help increase college access, offering opportunities to new groups of students who might not have considered going to college in the past. They can also be a big step in helping students to start planning and preparing for college.”
ACT’s research shows that students who are ready for college are more likely to stay in college and graduate. When college readiness improves, retention and completion rates increase.
Colorado and Illinois, which began statewide ACT testing of 11th graders in 2001, each saw their average state ACT scores drop initially. However, each has seen steady and significant score increases in the subsequent years: Colorado’s average ACT composite score rose from 20.1 in 2002 to 20.5 this year, while Illinois’ average score improved from 20.1 in 2002 to 20.7 this year. Statewide administration of the ACT has contributed to improvements in students’ college preparation and readiness, identification of college-ready students, college enrollment and retention levels, and college graduation rates in both states.
ACT Scores Among Hispanic Groups
Hispanic high school graduates in the class of 2008 earned an average ACT composite score of 18.7 this year, the same as in 2007. The national average ACT composite score for all students in the graduating class of 2008 was 21.1, down from 21.2 in 2007. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score.
Among specific Hispanic groups taking the ACT, Puerto Rican/Cuban/other Hispanic students in the graduating class of 2008 earned an average ACT composite score of 19.1, up from 18.9 in 2007, while Mexican American/Chicano students earned an average ACT composite score of 18.4, down from 18.5 in 2007.
The average score for Hispanic students on both the ACT Reading Test (18.9) and the ACT English Test (17.7) increased by one-tenth of one point from last year, while the average score on the ACT Science Test (18.7) dropped by an equal amount. The average score on the ACT Math Test this year remained unchanged (19.0).
Course-Taking in High School is Key to Satisfying Results in College Coursework
ACT score results once more demonstrate the importance of taking challenging courses in preparation for college coursework after high school. Hispanic test-takers who took ACT’s recommended core college preparatory curriculum—four years of English and three years each of math, science and social studies—were significantly more likely to meet the benchmark scores and be college-ready than those who did not.
For example, 57 percent of Hispanic graduates who reported taking the core curriculum met or surpassed ACT’s College Readiness Benchmark in English, compared to 38 percent of students who took less than core. In addition, twice as many Hispanic students who took the core curriculum met or surpassed ACT’s College Readiness Benchmark in math (33%) as those who took less than core (16%).
ACT-tested Hispanic students who took the core curriculum or more also earned significantly higher average scores than did those who took less than the recommended core curriculum. The average ACT composite score for Hispanic graduates who took the core coursework was 19.6 compared to 17.4 for those who took less than the recommended core.
Just 60 percent of Hispanic ACT-tested graduates in the class of 2008 reported taking the recommended core curriculum, while 32 percent reported taking less than the core.
“When a third of Hispanic ACT-tested students aren’t taking the recommended core curriculum, we have a problem,” said Ferguson. “We must send the message out loud and clear to students and their parents that taking the right coursework is the key to preparing for college and workforce training programs. And states and school districts must work harder to ensure that the courses they offer have the proper level of rigor to give students the skills they will need to succeed in college and career.”