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READY OR NOT, HERE THEY COME: ACT and SAT Results Reveal Large Percentages of High School Graduates Unprepared for College

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“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of U.S. high school graduates who won’t earn a two- or four-year college degree because they aren’t academically prepared to do so," said ACT Chief Executive Officer Jon Whitmore.

Large percentages of the nation’s high school students are graduating from high school unprepared for the rigors of college based on recent results from the nation’s two largest college admissions tests. Only 28 percent of 2015 ACT-tested high school graduates met college-readiness benchmarks in each of the four subjects on the ACT (English, reading, math, and science). Results from the College Board were not much better, with 41.9 percent of SAT takers in the Class of 2015 meeting the SAT college- and career-readiness benchmark.

“This should be a wake-up call for our nation,” said ACT Chief Executive Officer Jon Whitmore. “We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of U.S. high school graduates who won’t earn a two- or four-year college degree because they aren’t academically prepared to do so. In the increasingly competitive job market, where decent jobs are requiring more advanced skills and training, this is a huge problem.”

2015ACTDataAmong the four subjects that ACT tests, graduates from the Class of 2015 fared best in English, but more than half of those tested fell below ACT’s college-readiness benchmark in reading, mathematics, and science. The percentages were little changed from 2014, although the percentage of students meeting all four benchmarks increased slightly from 26 percent to 28 percent. An additional 12 percent of students met three benchmarks.

Nearly one in three (31 percent) 2015 ACT-tested high school graduates failed to meet even one benchmark. According to previous ACT research, fewer than 20 percent of students who meet none of the benchmarks are likely to earn a two- or four-year college degree within six years. On the other hand, nearly 60 percent of students who meet at least three benchmarks are likely to earn a degree.

As in past years, African American, American Indian, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander students performed dramatically lower than their white and Asian peers. For example, in reading, 75 percent of Asian and 75 percent of white students met the college-readiness benchmark, compared to only 47 percent of Pacific Islanders, 47 percent of Hispanics, 39 percent of American Indians, and 34 percent of African Americans.

“Our nation’s most underserved students too often are being neglected, trapped in poor education systems and lacking access to critical information and resources in order to navigate the system,” said ACT President Jon Erickson. “We simply must do better. It’s time to step up our efforts to provide them and all students with quality tools, skills and behaviors that prepare them for success.”

The SAT results reveal similar achievement gaps between students. While 61.3 percent of Asian SAT-takers met the SAT college- and career-readiness benchmark and 52.8 percent of white students did so, only 32.7 percent of Native American students, 22.7 percent of Hispanic students, and 16.1 percent of African American students met the benchmark.

Overall, the average SAT score for students in the Class of 2015 was 1490 out of a maximum of 2400, a 7-point drop compared to the previous year and the lowest score since the College Board added a writing section to the test in 2006.

Washington Post higher education reporter Nick Anderson writes that the “steady decline in SAT scores and generally stagnant results from high schools on federal tests and other measures reflect a troubling shortcoming of education-reform efforts.” He adds that the recent SAT results “show that gains in reading and math in elementary grades haven’t led to broad improvement in high schools … that means several hundred thousand teenagers, especially those who grew up poor, are leaving school every year unready for college.”

The ACT results are available at http://www.act.org/newsroom/data/2015/index.html.

The SAT results are available at
https://secure-media.collegeboard.org/digitalServices/pdf/sat/total-group-2015.pdf.

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