Each fall, ACT, Inc. releases The Condition of College and Career Readiness, using the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks to provide national and state snapshots of college readiness of graduating seniors who took the ACT in high school. The empirically-derived College Readiness Benchmarks represent a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher in a typical credit-bearing, first-year college course in that subject area.
For 2012 ACT-tested high school graduates, only 25% were able to meet the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in English, mathematics, reading, and science; whereas a slightly larger percentage (28%) of tested 2012 grads failed to meet any of the College Readiness Benchmarks. The failure of over a quarter of the 2012 graduates to meet any of the College Readiness Benchmarks suggests that these students will likely struggle in their first-year college courses in those subject areas.
The report suggests that one way to increase college readiness is through rigorous high school courses. Students who completed a core curriculum of 4 years of English and 3 years each of mathematics, social studies, and science in high school had higher ACT Composite Scores and were more likely to meet the College Readiness Benchmarks than students who did not complete a core curriculum. On average, high school graduates who completed at least a core curriculum earned ACT Composite test scores 2.5 to 3.1 points higher than the scores of students who did not take a core curriculum.
This year, in addition to the national report, ACT, Inc. released a series of reports examining the college readiness of six subgroups: African American, American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and Low-Income students. The subgroup reports, like the national report, illustrate that many groups of students, particularly low-income students, fail to meet the College Readiness Benchmarks; however for each subgroup, the completion of a core curriculum is associated with higher levels of college readiness.
Michelle Croft is a Senior Research Associate in Policy Research at ACT, Inc.