ACT scores for the class of 2012 are out, and the results are worrisome: More than half of last year's graduating class is not prepared for colllege or a career, though improving scores in math and science show promise.
Over half of seniors -- 52 percent -- took the test last year, which benchmarks reasoning in English, reading, math, and science. Based on how past test-takers performed in their college courses, ACT estimates how students would likely fare in an entry-level course. For each subject, the bar for readiness is set where scores indicate a student has a 75 percent chance or better of earning at least a C in that class.
This year, only 25 percent of students met all four benchmarks, while 60 percent did not meet more than two. The brightest sign in the results, though, was that the percentage of students who met the Readiness Bar in math and science have crept up 3 points since 2008, to 46 and 31 percent, respectively. ACT officials acknowledged that statewide STEM initiatives may well have played a part in this.
While the improvement in science and math is commendable, both still lag behind reading and English; further, ever-present achievement gaps still limit the opportunities presented to students of color. African-American seniors averaged the lowest scores at 17.0, a number that contrasts sharply to white students (22.4) and Asian-American students (23.6).
Somewhat controversially, ACT announced earlier this summer that they were creating college- and career-benchmarking tests for 3-10 grades, ostensibly to help track progress toward strong scores on the ACT. However, the move was viewed with suspicion, as the objective of the ACT test, which would be aligned to Common Core and offer instant feedback to teachers, appeared quite similar to the missive of the two consortiums, Smarter Balanced and PARCC, funded with Race To The Top grants. PARCC had initially contracted ACT to develop several items for its test bank.