Posted on August 17, 2011

ACT Scores Up, More US Students Ready for College

Amanda Paulson, Christian Science Monitor, August 17, 2011

The class of 2011 showed some small gains in their readiness for college, according to a new ACT report released today, but America still has a long way to go before all high school graduates are prepared for college–or a career.

The annual report, which looks at graduates’ performance against four “college readiness benchmarks” in English, reading, math, and science, found that 25 percent of graduates who took the ACT met or surpassed the benchmarks in all four subjects, compared with 24 percent last year. It was the third consecutive year of improvement.

At the same time, 28 percent of graduates didn’t meet the benchmark in any of the four subjects, and another 15 percent met it in just one.


The ACT’s college-readiness benchmarks–based on actual grades earned by students–are the minimum scores that indicate a student has a 75 percent chance of earning a C or better, or a 50 percent chance of earning a B or better, in a first-year credit-bearing college course.

{snip} This year, a record 1.6 million students in the 2011 class took the exam.

The small improvement that was made in meeting benchmarks came mostly from improvement in math and science–but those remain the two subject areas where students struggle the most. Whereas 66 percent of graduates who took the test met the college-readiness benchmark in English, for instance, just 30 percent did in science, and 45 percent in math. (Last year, those numbers were 29 percent and 43 percent, respectively.)

The results also showed a significant race-based achievement gap. Just 4 percent of African-Americans met the benchmarks in all four subjects, compared with 11 percent of Hispanics and American Indians, 15 percent of Pacific Islanders, 31 percent of whites, and 41 percent of Asian-Americans. At least 50 percent of African-American, Hispanic, and American-Indian students didn’t meet any of the four benchmarks.


[Editor’s Note: View the original ACT report here. Also, it is worth noting that, since 2009, the percentage of blacks who met all four College Readiness Benchmarks remained unchanged at 4 percent. By contrast, the percentage of Hispanics who met all four benchmarks increased from 10 to 11 percent and that of whites increased from 28 to 31 percent. In 2009, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were grouped in the same category and 36 percent met all four benchmarks. In 2011, the two groups were reported separately: 41 percent of Asians Americans achieved all four benchmarks, compared to only 15 percent of Pacific Islanders. It appears much of the improvement in the overall rate of college readiness over the past two years is attributable to whites and possibly Asians, and to a lesser degree to Hispanics.]