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ACT Provides First Look at U.S. Student Performance on Common Core

December 6 2010

IOWA CITY, Iowa—ACT, Inc. today released a new report aimed at assisting states as they begin implementing the Common Core State Standards. This first-of-its-kind research report, entitled a A First Look at the Common Core and College and Career Readiness, provides an estimate of current student performance on the Common Core State Standards using ACT college- and career-readiness data. The report also provides recommendations for local educators and state and federal policymakers that will be particularly helpful to the 44 states that are moving from adoption to implementation of the common standards.

States adopting the Common Core State Standards will have work to do to bring their students up to college- and career- readiness levels on the standards, according to the report’s findings.

“If states are to be successful in raising the expectations for what students should know and be able to do by the end of high school, it is important for them to understand their students’ level of college and career readiness today,” said Cynthia B. Schmeiser, president and COO, Education Division, ACT. “This report is our first attempt to provide states with the best data and information available so that they can make informed education policy and practice decisions moving forward.”

The report analyzed the test results of more than 250,000 11th-grade students in several states who were administered select forms of the ACT Plus Writing exam in spring 2010 as part of their states’ annual testing programs. The students represented in this report are unique in that they are not self-selected as many college admissions examinees are, span a range of abilities and college aspirations, are from a variety of communities and schools, and include those tested under standard conditions and under accommodations. In essence, the students represented in this report are a typical representation of students in high schools around the country.

While the report is not intended to focus on student performance relative to current state standards, it does shed light on areas states will need to focus on in their move from current state standards to the Common Core State Standards. Some of the report’s key findings include:

  • Across all Common Core domains, strands, and clusters, only one-third to one-half of 11th-grade students are reaching a college and career readiness level of achievement.
  • As in other reports, including ACT’s most recent Condition of College and Career and Readiness report, the percentages of Caucasian students who met or exceeded college and career readiness were uniformly higher than those of African American, Hispanic, and other underserved students.
  • ACT recommends state and district leaders begin to focus targeted instructional strategies to support student learning in four key areas of the Common Core State Standards: Text Complexity, Language and Vocabulary Acquisition, Number and Quantity, and Mathematical Practices.

“The results of this study suggest that far too many of today’s students will graduate from high school unprepared for college-level work or career training programs without some type of remediation in English language arts or mathematics,” Schmeiser said. “The time is now for state, district, and school leaders to begin targeting those areas of the Common Core where performance is weakest so that all students are prepared for college and career opportunities.”