Only One-Fourth of High School Seniors Ready For College


Only one-quarter of US high school school seniors are ready for college according to The Condition of College and Career Readiness, an annual report put out by ACT, the non-profit that offers college-entrance exams similar to the Educational Testing Service’s SAT. As EdWeek points out, these results are actually an improvement over previous years. This year, 25 percent of all students’ scores in English, reading, math, and science correlate with their having higher chances of earning Bís or Cís in entry-level college courses; in 2005, only 21 percent did.

Specifically, the scores of 25 percent of the 1.6 million high school graduates who took the ACT indicated that they had a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher and a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher in college courses. About 28 percent of students did not reach any of the benchmarks in the four subject areas and 15 percent only reached one benchmark in one area.

The ACT’s report is a definite wake-up call that US schools need to do a lot better at preparing students and maintaining standards.†The Los Angeles Times quotes US Education Secretary Arne Duncan who

acknowledged that American students are making “incremental” progress toward being able to complete college work, but said: “These ACT results are another sign that states need to raise their academic standards and commit to education reforms that accelerate student achievement.”

Jon Erickson, the ACTís senior vice president for educational services, struck a more positive note, pointing out that scores are improving:

We are optimistic that there is growth happening in the continual increase, even a tick at a time, in the overall college readiness of students. Itís a great sign, especially as the population [of ACT test-takers] gets more diverse and larger But Iíll temper that by saying we need to accelerate the pace. It will take us too long at a tick at a time.

In†EdWeek, Erickson also attributed the gains in college readiness to a national focus on just that, with an emphasis on the STEM fields of†science, technology, engineering and math. Students who take a “core curriculum” of four years of English and three years each of social studies, science and math fare better on the ACT’s exams:

Those who take three years of math, for instance, are nearly six times more likely to meet the college-readiness benchmark in that subject as those who donít, according to ACT data. But taking a core curriculum is no guarantee of stellar exam performance, either, a possible reflection of the widely recognized variation in course content and rigor. Only one-third of the students who took three years of science met the science benchmark.

The ACT also reports that students from a wider range of minority ethnic and racial groups are taking the test: Latino/a†student participation grew 116 percent in the last five years, Asian participation 59 percent, and African-American participation 47 percent, compared with 26 percent among white students. But only†4 percent of African-American students met the ACTís college-readiness benchmarks in all four subjects; 11 percent of Latino/a students did, 31 percent of white students and 41 percent of Asian students.

The college I teach at isn’t in the range of “highly selective” schools and the ACT’s findings roughly correlate with what I’ve noticed in my own students, as far as the number who are clearly ready for college-level English, math and science. Most students definitely need to work more on their writing and reading skills (keeping in mind that, for many of our students, English is a second or third language). Many struggle with math and are relieved to know they don’t (for some majors) need to take calculus. Science is definitely challenging, with students finding even science courses designed for non-science majors difficult.

But most of all, I’m glad the students are in college and applying themselves to their studies — and getting the preparation they didn’t get in high school.


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J C Bro
J C Brou6 years ago

Well, what else can be said. The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree!

Brian P.
.6 years ago

Not surprising but sad - true learning requires curiosity, inquiry, critical thinking...the very things that are devalued by narrow minded conservative interests that are doing their best to hijack America (and increasingly Canada).

Arthur Goh
Arthur Goh6 years ago

I believe to educate a child is to save a man (or a lady) and guarantees a nation's future.

I also believe educating a child is not the sole responsibilty of the Government. It is also the responsibility of the parents. While the Government is responsible in designing an education policy and providing the teachers to conduct the respective sylabus, parents must also take ownership in instilling interest for their child to invest enough effort in acquiring their best result.

Education does not start and stop in school. It's omnipresent.

In short, parents must take equal interest in their child's education. Pointing fingers at Government policy and lousy teachers is futile. Parents have the freedom to choose. Make the right choice for your child because, ultimately, it is your child's future and your future that matter. Not the Government of the day or those lousy teachers.

And, stop blaming school exams. They are set to find out what your child knows. Not to knock your ego or to gauge the stupidity of your child. Remember, no child on this planet is stupid. They can only be deprived by careless adults.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

“These ACT results are another sign that states need to raise their academic standards and commit to education reforms that accelerate student achievement.” This is probably a true statement, but that is not all they should do. Not all children are capable and/or want to go to college, that is where we fail terribly. Our entire educational system needs an overhaul, not just another way to show kids scoring higher on test. I believe that education standards should be set by the federal government and states should all comply.

Sandra G.
Sandra G6 years ago

So, that is suppose to be NEWS? LMAO, our education requirements are now following the "radical" lefts requirements of teaching children to be "gay" have no morals, no integrity, live off the government with our tax dollars, play with their electronic toys, teaching them to be "devil" followers & follow Obama, just like the followers of Jim Jones, to their deaths. DISGUSTING.

Sound Mind
Ronald E6 years ago

And - surprise, surprise: those 75%ers are the very people that the Right Reich is targeting for their brain-wash campaign with their anti-social rhetoric through Beck, Limbaugh, Fantasy Faux, the Murdoch's, et al.

Sound Mind
Ronald E6 years ago

Not every kid in HS wants to go to college. Most would prefer going right to work at a decent job. Most are going to be disappointed.

Linda T.
Linda T6 years ago

The numbers have gone down it used to be a third.

Hanan W.
Hana W6 years ago

What a shame!
Unfortunately, too many do not simply love to learn for the sake of knowing, simply knowing.
Truly, our youth are at lost.
They are our future leaders, including minority youth.
We must invest, not only dollars and cents, but values and the thrust to dream and and drive to want to know for the sake of it.

Marianne C.
Marianne C6 years ago

Part of the problem is how high school is viewed by STUDENTS. The ones who view it as pre-college work & laying the foundation for a good life, and who think grades are important, will do their work and strive to do it well. Those who think it's all about popularity, sports, sex, drugs, and rock & roll will be concentrating on those things.

I remember high school -- just barely. Looking back, I can see how many people I went to school with were already heading down the road to self-destruction even then. It all plays out very logically in hindsight: the wasted opportunities, the poor choices, the bad marriages, multiple marriages, the drug and alcohol abuse, the ones who ended up dead by thirty. They were all already heading that way long before graduation day.