Indiana‘s high schoolers do better than the rest of the nation, but most students taking the ACT are not ready for college classes according to the company that makes the test.
The testing company says 31-percent of high school students who take the ACT are not prepared to take college-level courses in at least one of the four subjects covered by the ACT – math, reading and writing, science and social studies.
The company determines this through a formula that pegs college readiness to a certain ACT score for each subject. “We figure out for each of the subject levels what the score is that corresponds with a 75-percent chance or better of getting a C or a 50-percent chance or better of getting a B in that college course,” said Steve Kappler, assistant vice president for college and career readiness at ACT.
Fewer than one-third of students nationwide, at least those who took the ACT, are ready for all of their college courses according to the report. “You‘re looking at 26-percent who have a good opportunity to succeed in those four subject levels,” said Kappler. Indiana students performed better than the national average, but Kappler says that could have been caused by a smaller percentage of students taking the exam – 38-percent of Indiana high school graduates took the ACT last school year, compared to 54-percent nationally.
“With a smaller testing population, you tend to see better students, those who are definitely college material in this cohort,” said Kappler. Overall ACT scores have dropped since 2009, but Kappler says that could be due to more students taking the test, including many who have no intention of attending college.
In individual subject scores, more students showed college readiness in reading than any other subject, while fewer than half of students were college ready in science, math and social studies. “I think that‘s one of the reasons you see STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiatives across the country, including Indiana,” said Kappler, pointing out that science was the weakest subject for ACT takers – only 36 percent met the college benchmark.
The ACT report also found a gap between the courses students want to study in college and where jobs are easiest to find after college. For example, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says 17-percent of job openings in 2020 will be in education fields, but only six-percent of students who took the ACT last school year said they were interested in an education job. Kappler says ACT is firmly behind the Common Core education standards, and says strong standards starting as early as third grade are one of the keys to ensuring that more students are ready for college.
Common Core has generated some opposition in Indiana and other states, mostly from conservatives who fear that state education standards would be dictated from Washington. The full implementation of Common Core is on hold in Indiana while the Department of Education studies it and how it would affect the state‘s standards for schools.