Troubling ACT News

The folks who run the ACT college entrance exam have just released a troubling report on how well prepared America’s high school students are for college. Their estimate is that twenty three percent of the high school students who took the ACT last year are likely to get a C or better in freshman English Composition, Algebra, Biology and Social Science.

In addition to a national report, there is one for each state. The Michigan readiness report, which is worth reading, can be found here. Don’t get alarmed that the Michigan college ready percent is only eighteen percent. You can’t compare us to the nation. We are one of only three states where all students take the ACT. In the other states, only those likely to go to college take the test. When the test was voluntary in Michigan, our ACT scores were at the national average.

ACT probably exaggerates the low number of students ready for college. There really is no good data on college graduation rates for kids that go to Michigan high schools. So we need to guess based on census data. About one third of Michiganians will have a two or four year degree by the age of 25. So my guess is that about thirty percent of Michigan high school graduates enter college without needing remediation.

But whether its 18% or 30% its way too low. And the the problem is far more pervasive than just central city and minority students.

The report also provides some guidance on what we can do better. It includes a list of skills that students need to be college ready. Calls for more rigorous course work. And a change in what we teach – moving away from breadth to more depth. We try to cover too much and in the process don’t insure that our kids have the fundamentals that matter most to college success.

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