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ACT Sets New Goals for College Readiness

High school students missing core benchmarks, according to ACT test scores

Seventy-seven percent of high school students nationwide are missing the core benchmarks necessary to prepare them for their first year in college, according to a new study conducted by the research and policy arm of ACT, which conducts curriculum based college entrance exams similar to the SAT.

“The Condition of College Readiness,” released in fall 2009, evaluates the scores of the nearly 1.5 million students of the 2009 graduating class who participated in the ACT exam. Meeting a benchmark in English, reading, science, or mathematics indicates that these students have a higher probability of scoring a C or above in a typical college course in that subject area.

“This test measures skills deemed important for success in first-year college coursework,” says Ed Colby, spokesman for ACT . “We feel very confident that these recommendations are solid and helpful.”

ACT recommends that schools and districts adopt the following practices for boosting performance scores for all graduating high school students: establishing essential standards, common expectations, clear performance standards, rigorous high school courses, and early monitoring and intervention. This includes shaping curricula to make every student, not just those bound for college, prepared with the skills ACT believes are essential for college or on the job success.

There has been an increase in the number of students taking higher-level courses and those expressing an interest in pursuing college. With a larger pool, the scores have not fallen.

“It’s been a rather recent phenomenon, through technology and the economy, to up the ante to get good jobs to pay the bills,” says Patte Barthe, director of the National School Board Association Center for Public Education. “As an education system, we have a lot of catching up to do.”