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ACT scores up, more US students ready for college

The class of 2011 showed small gains in ACT scores, according to a new report, but America still has a long way to go before all high school graduates are prepared for college or a career.

In this photo, high school students are shown studying together outdoors. A new report released today shows ACT scores up and more students are ready for college.

Photo illustration: Odilon Dimier/Altopress/Newscom

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The class of 2011 showed some small gains in their readiness for college, according to a new ACT report released today, but America still has a long way to go before all high school graduates are prepared for college – or a career.

The annual report, which looks at graduates’ performance against four “college readiness benchmarks” in English, reading, math, and science, found that 25 percent of graduates who took the ACT met or surpassed the benchmarks in all four subjects, compared with 24 percent last year. It was the third consecutive year of improvement.

At the same time, 28 percent of graduates didn’t meet the benchmark in any of the four subjects, and another 15 percent met it in just one.

The growth, even of just 1 percent, is significant given that this is the largest and most diverse cohort to have taken the ACT, says Paul Weeks, ACT’s vice president of educational services.

“Obviously there are some reasons for optimism, but there are also some signals and statistics that are cause for concern,” says Mr. Weeks.

The report attempts to get at not just what students know, but also how likely they are to succeed in a college setting – the focus of current federal education policy, in which “college and career readiness” is the top buzzword.

The ACT’s college-readiness benchmarks – based on actual grades earned by students – are the minimum scores that indicate a student has a 75 percent chance of earning a C or better, or a 50 percent chance of earning a B or better, in a first-year credit-bearing college course.

“These ACT results are another sign that states need to raise their academic standards and commit to education reforms that accelerate student achievement,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a statement. “American students are making incremental progress toward being ready to complete college-level work, but there’s still significant work to be done.”


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