Thursday, August 18, 2005

This Year's ACT: Good News, Bad News

The good news is that students taking this year's ACT didn't do any worse than last year's test-takers. The bad news is that 3 out of every 4 who took the exam didn't earn a high enough score to be considered likely to succeed in a college-level biology class: (emphasis added)

Average scores on the ACT college entrance exam held steady across all subjects for the high school class of 2005 compared with last year's seniors, an indication that schools are treading water in their efforts to prepare students for college-level work.

Administrators noted that the average national composite score of 20.9, unchanged from 2004, represents slight progress in the sense that scores kept up even though more students -particularly Hispanics- are taking the ACT. Yet the test scores also suggest that many students remain severely under-prepared for college work, they said.

ACT scores range from 1 to 36.

Nearly three in four test-takers failed to reach a benchmark indicating they are likely to succeed in a college biology course, and only 41 percent hit a similar benchmark in math. Barely one in five hit the benchmark in all four measured subject areas: math, science, English and social science.

"Hundreds of thousands are going to have a hard time because of the disconnect between their plans for college and the cold reality of their readiness for college," said Richard Ferguson, CEO of the independent, not-for-profit ACT, based in Iowa City, Iowa.

Nearly 1.2 million members of the class of 2005 took the ACT, or 40 percent of all graduates. The number rose slightly from last year to an all-time high. In Illinois and Colorado, the exam is taken by almost all 11th-graders under a state-mandated program.

The ACT exam is the predominant college entrance exam in about half the states, mostly in the middle part of the country, while the SAT is more popular on the East and West Coasts. Most colleges accept either exam.

  • The number of Hispanic test-takers is up 40 percent since 2001, to 83,447, and minorities comprise 27 percent of all ACT test-takers, up from 24 percent in 2001.
  • Average scores for Asian-Americans rose 0.2 points to 22.1, while white students' scores rose 0.1 to 21.9. Hispanics' scores rose 0.1 to 18.7, while blacks' fell 0.1 to 17.0.
  • Girls accounted for 56 percent of test-takers, unchanged for four years. Average boys' scores rose 0.1 from last year to 21.1; girls' scores were unchanged at 20.9.
One would have thought that with all the practice that kids have had in taking tests recently that those overall scores would have at least gone up a few points.
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