According to ACT’s The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2014 report released today, after several years of overall ACT scores remaining flat, scores dipped by two-tenths the between 2012 and 2013. This was likely due, at least partially, to the fact that ACT included students who required accommodations to take the test, such as extra time. Such students–on-average– typically perform lower, so their inclusion may have negatively impacted last year’s results. However, the Class of 2014 took back some of these losses by posting a gain of one-tenth of a point while still including all test takers.
Unlike overall scores that improved in 2014, the percent of students meeting ACT’s college readiness benchmarks remained flat after posting gains over the past several years. However, there were some differences by subject areas. In fact, more 2014 graduates met the college readiness benchmark in science than in 2013. On the other hand, fewer 2014 graduates met the college readiness benchmark in math than in 2013.
More positive results were found at the state level where all eight states that have administered the ACT to all students for multiple years as part of their statewide assessment systems (Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming) scored higher in 2014 than in 2013. In fact, a handful of these states make fairly dramatic gains in just the past year.
On the surface, the results don’t show much change in how prepared our graduates are for life after high school. Overall scores increased while there was no change in how many graduates were deemed college-ready. Keep in mind that ACT scores change very little from year to year so it will take several years to determine if these results are the start of a trend or not.
What is clear is that overall scores and college readiness results have not suffered, even as we’ve seen a record number of students graduate from high school on time, and seen a dramatic increase in the number of students taking the ACT test and advancing to college. Of course, there is room for improvement but these results show that our nation’s high schools are indeed preparing more students for college than ever before.— Jim Hull
Key findings below
- Of the 33 states where at least 40 percent of graduates took the ACT:
- Minnesota once again achieved the highest composite score with 22.9.
- However, just 76 percent of Minnesota 2014 graduates took the ACT
- Graduates from Hawaii posted the lowest scores among states with a score of 18.2.
- Of the 12 states where 100 percent of graduates took the ACT:
- Utah had the highest score at 20.8, followed by Illinois (20.7) and Colorado (20.6).
- North Carolina (18.9), Mississippi (19.0), and Louisiana (19.2) had the lowest scores out of this group.
- Three states (Wyoming, Tennessee, and Kentucky) improved their scores by three-tenths of a point over the past year while Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina improved their scores by two-tenths of a point.
- Louisiana saw their scores drop by three-tenths of a point over the past year.
- The nation’s graduating Class of 2014 had an average composite score of 21.0, which was one-tenth of a point increase from 2013. Scores had decreased by two-tenths of a point between 2012 and 2013 likely due to fact ACT included scores from students who received special accommodations such as extra time for the first time in 2013. Such students are typically lower performing students than those who do not receive accommodations.
- At this score, an average high school graduate has about a 75 percent chance of getting admitted into a good college.*
- Scores increased by two-tenths of a point in reading (21.3) and increased by one-tenth of point in English (20.3) and science (20.8) between 2013 and 2014, while scores on the math test remained at 20.9.
- Scores for black and white students improved.
- White graduates increased their scores by one-tenth of a point between 2013 and 2014 (22.2 to 22.3), although it was still a tenth of a point below their 2012 score.
- The average black graduate score improved from 16.9 to 17.0 over the past year as well.
- As for Hispanic graduates, their scores remained at 18.8 just as in 2013.
- Twenty-six percent of 2014 high school graduates were college-ready in all four ACT subject tests (English, reading, math, and science), which is the same as in 2013 but a three percentage point increase since 2009.
- Graduates who achieve these benchmarks are ready to succeed in first-year, credit-bearing college courses in the specific subjects ACT tests, according to ACT research. “Success” is defined as a 75% likelihood of earning a ‘C’ or better in the relevant course.
- Little change in college readiness by subject.
- The number of graduates reaching ACT’s college-ready benchmark in science increased by one percent from 2013 to 2014.
- In math, the number of graduates deemed college-ready decreased by one percent.
- In English and reading there was no change in the number of graduates being college-ready in those subject areas.
Core Course Rigor
- Graduates who completed ACT’s recommended core curriculum were much more likely to be college-ready.
- Two-thirds (67 percent) of graduates who completed at least four years of English courses were college-ready in English compared to 36 percent of those who did not. In reading, 46 percent of graduates who completed at least four years of English courses met ACT’s college-ready benchmarks for reading compared to 32 percent who did not.
- There was a much greater disparity when it came to math and science.
- For those graduates that completed three or more years worth of math nearly half (46 percent) were college-ready in math compared to just eight percent who did not.
- For those graduates that completed three or more years worth of science nearly 41 percent were college-ready in science compared to just eight percent who did not.
- About 57 percent of all 2014 high graduates took the ACT, compared to 54 percent in 2013 and 45 percent in 2009.
- More minority graduates are taking the ACT.
- In 2014, nearly 28 percent of ACT test-takers were Hispanic or black, compared to 24 percent in 2010.
- Furthermore, the percentage of test-takers who were white decreased between 2010 and 2014, from 62 percent to 56 percent.
For more information on how to use college entrance exam scores to evaluate your school, check out the Center’s Data First Web site.