ACT Test: 1 in 4 High School Students Is Ready for College

Courtesy of NPR News:

I promised I wouldn't be a downer. I am excited about the new school year.  I really am. Yet, as I get set to teach another batch of college freshmen how to write and think in more complex ways, this piece makes me wonder. What blend of students will I get this time? As a teacher (not a sub), I refuse to react negatively to students coming my way--I haven't even met them. Still, I've learned there are a lot of reasons a high percentage typically isn't ready to completely engage in my course. My gut tells me that lack of success in high school is something, among other potential issues, people have to "get over" in order to throw themselves into the sometimes messy process of learning. Some haven't gotten over it yet. Some are sick of school and teachers for other reasons. Some are simply distracted or without direction. This last reason has been a big one.

On one level, I have to react as a reader to this not terribly surprising news. Is there something special about ACT test takers that produce overall disappointing scores? Did SAT test takers perform similarly? Is this every ACT test given this year? Lastly, look at the number of states where less than 40% of graduates took the ACT. A lot, right? Now, consider the potential numbers of graduates that took the test in other states. The analysis was made in that state if only 41% or more of grads took the test.  Between the 2 groups, that's still a lot of folks, potentially, NOT taking the ACT and not counted in this study. Maybe in this economic climate, they're flocking to community college.They don't need ACT scores there. Maybe they're waiting to take the test. Maybe the ACT is falling into disfavor among high school grads. Still, no matter what questions you ask about the data, something's not right in high school.


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  • I figure that most of the college bound students from the Illinois Math and Science Academy, New Trier, Glenbrook North and South, Highland Park-Deerfield, and Lake Forest did well, so one has to figure what the rest of the state did.

    Fortunately, since you are teaching in college, apparently you aren't among the public school teachers who say that they made their pension contributions, work hard, deserve pay comparable to that in the districts listed above, and should be respected by the rest of us, but say nothing about the students or their lack of achievement.

  • In reply to jack:

    That is, IF significant students from those schools even took the ACT. We don't know. It used to be that colleges on the coasts wanted SAT scores, not ACT. Might upper-middle class families be inclined to send their kids away? Maybe. The thing is, as much as I buy into the headline (I do have a similarly themed blog), I still have to ask questions about how they got their numbers. I'm going to share it with my college freshmen in a few days. How many will say, oh yeah, of course, it's a study--it's published in the media--and quickly accept the attention-getting headline. How many will question the details, the process? There's a million ways to play with numbers, and we usually don't get to see the complete data set. That's what we're trying to do. Teach people to think. (Sorry to get on my "high horse," Jack, I'm looking forward to starting my teaching semester!) I'll leave the second part of your comment for another day. There's a lot to say. Thanks for commenting.

  • In reply to the Sub:

    Obviously, I don't know the ins and outs of who took or who had to take the ACT. I had to take it to get a scholarship way back when, but it sort of appears that it is now being used as a measure of school performance.

    The only thing I figure is that college bound students from those schools generally get into 4 year colleges without too much trouble. People from the Math & Science
    Academy probably already have the equivalent of a college education.

    Hence, I was reflecting more on if one takes that out of the sample, what the percentage for the rest of the state would be--i.e. far lower.

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