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ACT scores increase, but college and career readiness needs improvement

Students’ performance in the ACT’s 2009 college-ready assessment made a slight increase from previous years across all subject areas. However, education stakeholders say the modest upticks have yet to meet the growing need of the nation to prepare students for postsecondary education and their careers.

“The recent increase in college preparedness on the ACT is good news. But our students need to do dramatically better to guarantee their future economic success,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an ACT-published statement.

The percentage of graduates ready to earn at least a “C” or higher in first-year college courses in all four ACT subject areas —English, math, reading and science—increased from 22 percent in 2008 to 23 percent in 2009. Student’s potential to earn that “C” is ACT’s measure of college readiness. The recent test outcomes were higher than in 2005 and 2006 and are the same as in 2007, when the pool of test-takers was likely less diverse in terms of academic preparation, according to ACT.

Further, ACT considers those same students career ready. By measure of ACT, students who are ready to earn at least a “C” or higher in first-year college are also prepared for success in their first year of most workforce training programs of fields in which they may earn a wage sufficient to support a family and have potential for career advancement.

ACT has issued the following recommendations on steps that states and school districts can take to better prepare students for college and career:
• Adopt fewer—but essential—college and career readiness standards as their new high school graduation standards.
• Adopt a rigorous core curriculum for all high school graduates, whether they are bound for college or work.
• Define “how good is good enough” for college and career readiness.
• Strengthen the rigor of their courses.
• Begin monitoring academic achievement early to make sure younger students are on target to be ready for
college and career.
• Establish longitudinal P-16 (preschool through college) data systems.

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