Issue Briefs

2009

How Much Growth toward College Readiness Is Reasonable to Expect in High School? (PDF; 68KB, 7 pages)
How much growth in academic achievement typically occurs during high school? Can such growth can be accelerated so that more students are ready for college and career when they graduate from high school?

The Path to Career Success: High School Achievement, Certainty of Career Choice, and College Readiness Make a Difference (PDF; 81KB, 8 pages)
How can future workers better prepare for career success? We examined three indicators of early career success: college degrees obtained in career field of interest, job attainment in career field of interest, and satisfaction in these jobs.

Using ACT Data as Part of a State Accountability System (PDF; 86KB, 8 pages)
Depending on the system a school chooses to use to indicate progress, its accountability measure will typically be one of four types: status, improvement, growth, or value-added. This brief summarizes a study in which data from one or more of ACT's three college readiness assessments—EXPLORE®, PLAN®, and the ACT® test—were used to generate all four types of accountability measures.

Using PLAN to Identify Student Readiness for Rigorous Courses in High School (PDF; 72KB, 4 pages)
As part of its College Readiness System, ACT offers the PLAN® program as a way for tenth-grade students to review their progress toward college readiness while there is still time to make necessary interventions.

Preparation Matters (PDF; 652KB, 12 pages)
This paper discusses the necessity of academic preparation in elementary and middle school so that genuinely rigorous courses may be taught in high school—and students will be prepared to gain from taking them.

2008

ACT's College Readiness System: Meeting the Challenge of a Changing World (PDF; 688KB, 28 pages)
ACT's College Readiness System is a fully aligned, research-based solution intended to help states implement the policy actions necessary to help prepare every student for college and career.

Making the Dream a Reality: Action Steps for States To Prepare All Students for College and Career (PDF; 732KB, 12 pages)
Six actions steps that, if adopted by states, will create the policy framework that will ensure that any American student who earns a high school diploma truly is prepared for college and career.

The Economic Benefits of Academic and Career Preparation (PDF; 58KB, 3 pages)
Students should start career planning as early as middle school by learning about their interests and their academic strengths and weaknesses as they begin to consider postsecondary and career options. The results of this study provide a financial rationale by finding that those students who engage in such long-term planning are more likely to earn higher long-term salaries after college graduation.

The Relative Predictive Validity of ACT Scores and High School Grades in Making College Admission Decisions (PDF; 52KB, 4 pages)
A summary of ACT research on the relative weights of ACT scores and high school grades for predicting college persistence as well as selected indicators of academic success in college.

What Kind of Interpretations Can Be Made on the Basis of ACT Scores? (PDF; 56KB, 2 pages)
ACT is often asked whether student scores on the ACT test can be used to make norm-referenced or standards-referenced comparisons. While the ACT provides data that permit norm-referenced interpretations of student scores, the ACT is fundamentally designed and developed as a standards-referenced assessment whose scores represent performance at meeting the requirements for college readiness.

What We Know about College Success: Using ACT Data to Inform Educational Issues (PDF; 70KB, 6 pages)
If students are ready for college, dropout rates and the costs of remediation are reduced and more students persist in and graduate from college. ACT research related to college readiness and college success is rich and extensive and offers insights about the impact of readiness on college success.

2007

Defining Rigorous Content for ACT's QualityCore™ End-of-Course Examinations (PDF; 72KB, 5 pages)
End-of-course examinations are only as good as the assumptions used in designing them. What is a course's "essential" content? And what does it mean to master it?

Effective Use of EPAS® Helps Those Students Who Need Help the Most (PDF; 56KB, 4 pages)
Students at lower achievement levels gain substantially when their schools use ACT's EPAS (Educational Planning and Assessment System) effectively.

Impact of Cognitive, Psychosocial, and Career Factors on Educational and Workplace Success (PDF; 759KB, 20 pages)
How we educate and train our youth to be successful postsecondary students and workers is one of the most critical questions of our time. We cannot compete globally without a high percentage of our citizens succeeding in college and in the workplace. What are the key factors of college and work readiness?

The Role of Nonacademic Factors in College Readiness and Success (PDF; 69KB, 5 pages)
In addition to academic factors, nonacademic factors can influence student performance and persistence in college. Effective use of nonacademic student information can support student academic achievement.

2006

Assessing the College Readiness in Reading of Eighth- and Ninth-Grade Students Using ACT's EXPLORE (PDF; 177KB, 10 pages)
Only 43 percent of 2006 EXPLORE-tested eighth- and ninth-graders are on target to be ready for college-level reading. If a greater number of these students can be identified and helped before they reach high school, they will be more likely to have developed the necessary foundational reading skills upon which college-ready skills can be based.

Benefits of a High School Core Curriculum (PDF; 199KB, 14 pages)
In this research brief, we describe the benefits of taking the ACT-recommended core curriculum and of taking specific high school courses. The brief is divided into two parts: benefits for academic achievement and college and workforce training readiness, and benefits for college success.

The Benefits of Statewide Use of the ACT® Test (PDF; 5 pages, 81KB)
As part of their move toward statewide assessment at the high school level, a number of states have adopted the ACT test. The ACT, for students in grades 11 and 12, measures students' academic readiness to make successful transitions to college and work after high school.

EPAS: A System that Works (PDF; 16 pages, 42KB)
ACT's EPAS (Educational Planning and Assessment System) is designed to guide and support schools, districts, and states in their efforts to improve students' readiness for life after high school.

Ready to Succeed: All Students Prepared for College and Work (PDF; 20 pages, 399KB)
Every student should leave high school with a ticket to the future. We must encourage students to take rigorous high school courses, monitor their academic progress, make timely interventions, and communicate early and often how well they are progressing toward their goals.

Developing the STEM Education Pipeline (PDF; 107KB, 8 pages)
This report makes recommendations for strengthening science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in middle schools and high schools.

2005

Are High School Grades Inflated? (PDF; 126KB, 4 pages)
This college readiness brief addresses the question, "How useful to colleges are high school grades alone in making admissions and placement decisions about students?"

ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, Retention, and First-Year College GPA: What's the Connection? (PDF; 101KB, 2 pages)
This college readiness brief explores the connections between attainment of ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks and college retention and first-year college GPA.

Career Planning: Students Need Help Starting Early and Staying Focused (PDF; 121KB, 3 pages)
ACT followed students' academic achievement and career development from 8th grade to high school graduation to determine: when do students begin thinking about their career interests, whether their academic achievement and career interests are related, and if students' career interests are consistent with their college major and career choices.

Do Current State Standards and Assessments Reflect College Readiness?: A Case Study (PDF; 190KB, 6 pages)
The results of this study show that in at least one case there is evidence that state standards and state assessments alone do not accurately reflect the college readiness levels of the students in the state. Using EXPLORE® and PLAN® in conjunction with a state assessment increases the likelihood that the state's students will be ready for college and work by the time they finish high school.

Gender Fairness Using the ACT (PDF; 193KB, 4 pages)
There is clear evidence that gender differences on the ACT are a function of self-selection and that these differences disappear when all students are tested. Most likely, the differences seen between males and females on the ACT are a function of self-selection—that is, who decides to take the test—rather than inherent bias in what the test is measuring.

Incorporating ACT Scores into Your Statewide Assessment (PDF; 106KB, 3 pages)
With ACT's assistance, your state can determine a score scale for a state standards and college readiness assessment containing multiple measures that usefully and efficiently combines information about student achievement across tests. ACT's straightforward scale-score method ensures that a total score made up of the individual scores from each assessment will yield a meaningful "snapshot" of student performance.

The Sensitivity of the ACT to Instruction (PDF; 121KB, 3 pages)
Taking specific course sequences in high school has a direct effect on students' ACT scores, and thus on their preparedness for college-level coursework.

What Kind of Test Preparation Is Best? (PDF; 127KB, 3 pages)
As long as students are ready and motivated to learn and the courses cover the proper material, simply taking the right core courses in high school can increase ACT Composite scores more than does any one of the most beneficial short-term test preparation activities.