ACT Scores: 60 Percent of High School Graduates Did Not Meet Benchmarks for College and Career Readiness

Over half of this year’s high school graduating class, a record number of students, took the ACT college and career readiness exam. The sobering exam results indicate that 60 percent of the high school graduates are at risk of not succeeding in college and careers:

  • 28 percent of exam takers did not meet any of the benchmarks set by the test in English, math, reading, and science.
  • Fifteen percent of test takers met only one benchmark, and 17 percent met two benchmarks.
  • In sum, 60 percent of all test takers met two or less benchmarks.

ACT specifies that the minimum score needed in each of the four testing areas indicates that a student has a 75 percent chance of earning a grade of C or higher, or a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher, in typical first-year college coursework.

An analysis of this year’s scores also reflects disparities between the scores of Asian American and White students, most of whom met or exceeded the benchmarks except in science, and those of Black and Hispanic students, who were less likely to meet or surpass the benchmarks. Just one-third of all students met the science benchmarks.

ACT also surveyed students’ career interests, and found that the career areas of interest for students are not aligned with the kinds of jobs projected to be available over the next decade.

The study suggests several state policy recommendations to increase student preparedness. Suggestions include setting clear performance standards, ensuring monitoring and early intervention, and implementing ACT’s Core Practice Framework.

Read ACT’s analysis of the scores: The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2012.

Kara Herbertson, Education Policy Analyst


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