Most college-bound 11th graders lack the reading, writing and math skills called for in the new Common Core Standards, concludes an ACT analysis. Ed Week summarizes:
Within English/language arts, only 38 percent of 11th graders hit the proficient range in reading, and barely more than half reached it in writing and in language. Particular subsets of skills stood out as weaknesses: Only three in 10 proved themselves well-versed enough in conquering progressively more complex texts, and only a shade more demonstrated enough strength in their knowledge of language and vocabulary.
. . . Not even one-quarter of the students showed college-ready levels of skill in understanding scientific reading material. They showed more strength in reading literature, and in grappling with informational texts and social studies material, though proficiency levels in those areas still ranged only between 37 percent and 41 percent.
In math, only 37 percent of students showed proficiency in statistics and probability, and only four in 10 did so in functions. The weakest math area was number and quantity, where only 34 percent showed proficiency in skills considered foundational to later math study. ACT officials were troubled by students’ weaknesses on a set of items that reflect their prowess with “mathematical practices,” such as reasoning abstractly, modeling with math, and making sense of problems and persevering to solve them. Only one-third of students showed proficiency in those skills.
Only one in 10 African-American students reached college-ready levels in reading and in the number and quantity area of math.
Students should “read progressively more complex texts as they go through school” and develop science and history literacy skills, the report urges. In math, schools should focus on early-grades number-and-quantity skills and strengthening students’ understanding of mathematical processes and practices, the report advises.
Jason Zimba, one of the lead authors of the math section of the common standards, said he welcomed the study’s recommendation to focus on early-grades foundational math, which is typically “beneath the radar of state testing.”
Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core Standards, which seek to define the knowledge and skills needed for college or a career.