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Hispanic ACT Test Takers Show Improvement in College and Career Readiness

Number of Hispanic Test Takers Continues to Surge

August 17 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa—College and career readiness among 2011 Hispanic U.S. high school graduates who took the ACT test shows slow but steady improvement, particularly in the key areas of math and science, according to ACT’s yearly report, The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2011, released today. This has occurred as the number of Hispanic test-takers continues to dramatically increase.

Eleven percent of Hispanic graduates in the class of 2011 who took the ACT exam 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 is unchanged from last year and up from 10 percent the previous three years.

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.

The improvement in college readiness among Hispanic students is most evident in the key area of mathematics. This year, 30 percent (compared to 27 percent in 2010 and 26 in 2007) of the students in this group met or exceeded the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in math, while 47 percent (compared to 46 in 2010 and 49 in 2007) met or exceeded the English benchmark. Thirty five percent (compared to 34 in 2010 and 2007) of Hispanic graduates met or exceeded the ACT benchmark in reading. Finally, 15 percent (compared to 14 percent in 2010 and 13 percent in 2007) met or exceeded the benchmark in science.

“It’s encouraging to see that more Hispanic students are ready to succeed academically at the next level,” said Jon Erickson, interim president of ACT’s Education Division.

However, 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. Forty-five percent of Hispanic test takers in the 2011 graduating class failed to meet any of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks.

“Too many students are still falling through the cracks,” said Erickson. “It’s 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 year’s pool of ACT-tested graduates is the largest and most ethnically diverse in the 52-year history of the exam. More than 1.62 million 2011 graduates—49 percent of the entire U.S. graduating class—took 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 growth in Hispanic test takers over the past five years has been dramatic. More than 200,000 Hispanic graduates (200,661) took the ACT test in 2011, 27 percent more than in 2010 and more than twice the number as in 2007. The rising number of Hispanic students taking the ACT continues to move closer to the actual representation of this group among all students. In 2007, Hispanic students were just seven percent of ACT test takers while they represented 15 percent of all graduating seniors. This year, 12 percent of ACT test takers are Hispanic compared to their ethnic representation of 18-percent among all graduates.

The ACT is an achievement test that measures knowledge and academic skills 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 academic skills, behavioral readiness, and education and career planning as three key dimensions of college and career readiness. (Please see Fact Sheet here)

“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, it’s important that test results are not overemphasized as a single answer to the readiness problem. We at ACT are committed to identifying the various factors that ensure success. The ACT test is used for multiple goals and purposes beyond admissions and predicting college outcomes, such as course placement, counseling, and accountability.”

 

Finally, the ACT 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. (Please see Fact Sheet here)

“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 U.S.”