Half the students in the lowest income quartile failed to meet any of ACT’s college readiness benchmarks in English, reading, math, and science.
Forty-five percent of low-income students met the English benchmark, compared to 64 percent of all students and 26 were ready for college reading, versus 44 percent of all student. Only 23 percent tested as proficient in math and 18 percent in science, roughly half the numbers for all students.
Not surprisingly, low-income students who take a “core or more” curriculum (four years of English and three years each of math, science, and social studies) do better than peers take a lighter load. While only 25 percent of “core-or-more” students from lower-income families met the benchmark, that compares to 4 percent of less-than-core students.
However, African-American students who complete the recommended college-prep curriculum are much less likely to be prepared for college than other core-or-more students, reports ACT and the United Negro College Fund.
These students may be taking classes with a “college prep” label but watered-down content, lower expectations or less-qualified teachers, said Steve Kappler, a vice president at ACT.
Core-or-more blacks met the ACT college readiness benchmark at a rate of 36 percent in English, 19 percent in reading, 15 percent in math and 11 percent in science.
Nationally, 67 percent of students who took the core or more met the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in English, 47 met it in reading, 46 in math and 41 in science—essentially anywhere from double to triple the rate of African-American students who took the core or more.
“A vast majority of African-American students desire a postsecondary education, but they’re clearly not prepared for it,” said Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF. “We must work together to bridge that gap from aspiration to reality by providing quality education and policies focused on college readiness.”