ACT: 25% of grads are ready for college

College readiness inched up for this year’s graduates, ACT reports. Twenty-five percent who took the ACT are ready to succeed in first-year, college-level writing, algebra, social science and biology classes. That compares to 24 percent in 2010.

On the down side, 28 percent of test takers were unprepared in all subjects.

Linking test scores with actual college grades, ACT defines college readiness as a 50 percent chance of earning a grade of B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher in a typical first-year college course.

Students are doing better in math and science, the weakest subjects:

This year, 45 percent of test takers (compared to 43 percent last year) met or exceeded the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in math, while 30 percent (compared to 29 percent last year) met or exceeded the benchmark in science. In comparison, 66 percent and 52 percent met or surpassed the benchmarks in English and reading, respectively, both unchanged from last year.

More students are taking the ACT, which puts downward pressure on scores. Nearly half the 2011 graduating class took the exam.  Black and Latino test takers, only 19 percent of the total in 2007, now make up 26 percent of test takers.

Update:  Thanks to commenters for noting the pass rates (low) in states that require all high school students to take the ACT, regardless of their college plans.  (The idea is to motivate students to consider college.)

RiShawn Biddle highlights the dismal college readiness rates for black and Hispanic students who took the ACT: four percent of blacks and 11 percent of Hispanics were college ready in all subjects compared to 31 percent of whites and 41 percent of Asian-Americans.

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  1. Mark Roulo says:

    Unless all high school graduates take the ACT, then 25% of ACT takers being college ready is *NOT* the same thing as 25% of high school graduates being college ready.

    Speculating wildly, I’d guess that maybe only the top 50%-60% of high school graduates take the ACT. If we assume that the ones who *don’t* will almost all score “not college ready”, then maybe 12%-15% of high school graduates are college ready.

  2. The ACT is also geographically limited, I think. Except for those kids aiming for elite or coastal schools and therefore take the SAT (probably the top students), Midwestern kids tend to take the ACT. I think I remember reading that some states require all kids to take the ACT – does anyone know?

    Anyway, it looks like far too many kids are going to college, because they aren’t prepared to do college-level work. It’s not likely to change, because of the ethnic breakdown of scores.

  3. Mark,

    In IL, all kids take the ACT, including my sped son (which was ridiculous). His score and others like him were included in the average ACT score for that school.

  4. tim-10-ber says:

    In TN all kids take the ACT…really stupid as the money spent on remedial education is huge…need to stop the push for all to go to college, test those on a 4 year track and bring in pure voc-tech not the academies…ugh

  5. Mark Roulo says:

    With a little digging, I found this page:

    It breaks out the ACT’s opinion of college readiness by state.

    This page:

    lists the percentage of students taking the test in each state.

    For the states that test all high school students the “percent college ready” numbers are: 23, 23, 16, 16, 20, 10, 15, 18.

    These state are *not* representative of the nation as a whole (southern states are over-represented in the list), though, so I’m not sure what to conclude …

  6. Sean Mays says:

    In Colorado all students take the ACT. Also in Michigan as well as TN and IL. It is more prevalently taken by students in the Midwest and West, but in terms #’s taken, it’s been growing faster than the SAT.