Only one in four high school graduates from the Class of 2012 who took the ACT college- and career-readiness exam were considered “college ready” in English, reading, mathematics, and science, according to The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2012, released by ACT on August 22. That percentage was unchanged from last year.
As shown in the graph to the right, the percentages of students meeting the ACT college-readiness benchmark was highest in English, with 67 percent of graduates tested reaching the mark, compared to only 31 percent in science.1
According to the report, 28 percent of high school graduates tested did not meet the college-readiness benchmark in any of the four subjects. Fifteen percent met only one of the benchmarks, while 17 percent met just two.
“Far too many high school graduates are still falling short academically,” said ACT Chief Executive Officer Jon Whitmore. “We need to do more to ensure that our young people improve. The advanced global economy requires American students to perform at their highest level to compete in the future job market and maintain the long-term economic security of the U.S.”
As shown in the table below, only four states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New York) saw more than 40 percent of their 2012 high school graduates meet all four benchmarks.
States with the Highest and Lowest Percentages of Students Meeting All Four Benchmarks
Among gender lines, 29 percent of male graduates met all four benchmarks, compared to 22 percent for females.
When broken down by race and ethnicity, the scores reveal a wide achievement gap between Asian and white students and their peers. As shown in the graph to the right, 42 percent of Asian students and 32 percent of white students met the college-readiness benchmark in all four subjects, compared to only 17 percent of Pacific Islanders, 13 percent of Hispanics, 11 percent of American Indians, and 5 percent of African Americans.
The report finds sizeable gaps between student subgroups in each of the individual subjects as well. In math, for example, 72 percent of Asian students met the benchmark—nearly 20 percentage points higher than white students and at least 30 percentage points higher than any of the other student subgroups.
“The 2012 ACT Condition report is clear: There is far too much disparity in education outcomes for our students—gaps based on income, ethnicity and race, subject area, and vast differences between those who take the core and those who do not,” said Council of Chief State School Officers Executive Director Gene Wilhoit. “This report is a reminder as to why we’re making sweeping changes in state standards, among other reforms, and that we need to move even more swiftly.”
The complete report is available at
1 ACT’s college-readiness benchmarks are based on actual grades earned in college by ACT-tested students. They specify the minimum score needed on each of the four ACT subject tests to indicate that a student has a 75 percent