ACT: 60 Percent of 2012 High School Grads at Risk of Low Success

Iowa City, Iowa — Aug. 22

Success in college and career may be at risk for at least 60 percent of likely college-bound 2012 U.S. high school graduates, according to nonprofit ACT’s newly released report, “The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2012.”

The annual report focuses on the scores earned by graduating seniors who took the ACT college and career readiness exam this year. More than a fourth (28 percent) of ACT-tested 2012 graduates did not meet any of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in English, mathematics, reading and science, suggesting they are likely to struggle in first-year college courses in all four of those subject areas.

Another 15 percent met only one of the benchmarks, while 17 percent met just two. In short, a total of 60 percent of test takers met no more than two of the four benchmarks. In comparison, only 25 percent of tested 2012 grads met all four ACT benchmarks, unchanged from last year.

ACT’s empirically derived College Readiness Benchmarks are based on actual grades earned in college by ACT-tested students. They specify the minimum score needed on each of the four ACT subject tests to indicate that a student has a 75 percent chance of earning a grade of C or higher or a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher in a typical credit-bearing first-year college course in that subject area.

ACT continually updates its research to ensure that the benchmarks are reflective of college success.

College readiness levels remain particularly low among African-American and Hispanic students. None of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks were met by more than half of students in those racial/ethnic groups. In contrast, the majority of Asian-American and white students met or surpassed the benchmarks in all areas except science.

Last month, ACT announced plans to launch a new “next generation” assessment system covering early elementary grades through high school. The new system will be designed to provide students, parents and educators with information and insights on multiple measures of readiness to help ensure that students are on track for success starting early in their academic careers and continuing on through high school graduation.

The new ACT system is built on its College Readiness Standards. It will be aligned with the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics, but will also go beyond the Common Core Standards, providing information on science achievement as well as behaviors and goals.

The system will be linked to ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks, which are aligned with international standards such as the Programme for International Student Assessment to ensure U.S. competitiveness.

The ACT data also point to a disconnect between the types of careers that graduates are interested in pursuing and the types of jobs likely to be available to them. The percentage of ACT-tested graduates interested in careers in the five fastest-growing fields according to the U.S. Department of Labor — education, computer/information specialties, community services, management and marketing/sales — was less than the projected demand for workers in each case.

Source: ACT