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October 7, 2014

More Students Taking Advanced Placement But College Readiness Remains Flat

In a departure from past releases, this year’s SAT results included results from the College Board’s two other testing programs— the PSAT/NMSQT and their Advanced Placement (AP) exams— providing a more complete picture of student progress towards college readiness throughout high school.

This year’s picture provides evidence that more students, especially poor and minority students, are taking more rigorous courses such as Advanced Placement (AP), yet such improvements have not led to an increase in college-readiness rates. Unfortunately, it is not clear why this is the case especially since the AP test-taking rates for the nation’s largest growing population, Hispanics, make up a large portion of the increase in AP test-taking.

Although Hispanic students made tremendous strides on the AP, as a group, they were less likely to reach the college readiness benchmark on the SAT. While nearly 43 percent of the Class of 2014 who took the SAT reached the college readiness benchmark score of 1550, just under a quarter of Hispanic test-takers did so. Moreover, black students who took the SAT were even less likely to be considered ‘college ready,’ as just under 16 percent met or exceeded the college readiness threshold.

 

The Findings

 

College Readiness

  • Nearly half (43 percent) of the test-takers met the SAT College-Ready Benchmark in 2014, which is unchanged from the year prior and slightly lower than in 2009 (44 percent).
    • The SAT College-Ready Benchmarks represent a student who scores a combined 1550 or higher. Students hitting this benchmark have a 65 percent chance of earning a B-minus grade point average in their freshman year courses.
  • Minority students are less likely to be college-ready.
    • Just 15.8 percent of black students and 23.4 percent of Hispanic students were college-ready, according to the SAT’s Benchmark.

Core Course Rigor

  • Three-quarters of SAT test-takers completed the recommended “core” college-preparatory curriculum, which is an increase from 70 percent in 2001.

Test Takers

  • Just over 1.67 million students from the Class of 2014 took the SAT sometime during their high school which was a 4 percent increase from 2013.
  • More minority students are taking the SAT.
    • Nearly half (48 percent) of test takers were minorities in 2014 compared to 46 percent just a year earlier.

 

Advanced Placement (AP)

  • In 2014, 22 percent of the nation’s 11th- and 12th-graders took at least one AP exam which is nearly double the number of students from just a decade ago, when 12 percent took an AP exam.
  • Even though more students took an AP exam, passing ratings improved as well. In 2004, just 8 percent of 11th- and 12th-graders passed an AP exam; that rate increased to 13 percent in 2014.
  • Hispanic students (19 percent) are taking AP courses at nearly the same rate as the overall national average (22 percent), yet black (13 percent) and Native American (12 percent) students are still less likely to take AP.
  • According to the College Board’s PSAT/NMSQT results, nearly 40 percent of PSAT/NMSQT had the potential to succeed in an AP course but never took an exam. However, such students may have taken other college-level courses such as International Baccalaureate or Honors programs.





August 21, 2013

Good news, bad news from latest ACT results

ACT results for the Class of 2013 were released today and despite the drop in overall scores, more high school graduates are prepared for college. The decline in scores may be due to the fact for the first time ACT is including students who required accommodations, such as more time to take test, in the overall results as well as the fact that there as a dramatic increase in test-takers because both groups likely consist of a number of lower-performing students.

With that in mind, although scores declined it is important to point out that the percent of graduates considered “college ready” in all four subjects increased, and has been increasing for several years even though many more traditionally disadvantaged graduates are now taking the ACT. This shows our high schools are graduating more students ready to succeed in college.

But the results also show that progress has been slow and uneven between subgroups, requiring schools to double and even triple their efforts in making sure all students are adequately prepared for college-level work. To do so, high schools need to ensure that all students are taking the courses they need to succeed in college. Unfortunately, as CPE’s latest report Out of Sync found, most states do not require the courses students need to succeed in college for students to earn a high school diploma. As more graduates plan on enrolling in college, it is more important than ever that a high school diploma represent a student who is ready for higher education, whether it as a two-year or four-year institution. – Jim Hull

Below is summary of the major findings from the 2013 ACT report

National Scores

  • The nation’s graduating Class of 2013 had an average composite score of 20.9, which was a decrease from the 21.1 from both 2012 and 2009.
    • At this score, an average high school graduate has about a 72 percent chance of getting admitted into a good college.*
  • Scores decreased by two-tenths of a point on the reading (21.1), math (20.9) and science (20.7) tests between 2012 and 2013, while scores on the English (20.2) test declined by three-tenths of a point.
  • Scores declined for every ethnic/racial group.
    • White graduates saw a decrease of two-tenths of a point between 2012 and 2013 (22.4 to 22.2).
    • The average black graduate score was 16.9.0 in 2013, which was one-tenth lower than in 2012 but the same as in 2009.
    • The average Hispanic graduate score was 18.8 in 2013, which was a tenth of point lower than in 2012 but a tenth of a point higher than in 2009.

State Scores

  • Of the 31 states where at least 40 percent of graduates took the ACT:
    • Minnesota achieved the highest composite score of 23.0.
      • 74 percent of Minnesota graduates took the ACT
    • Idaho, Iowa, and Wisconsin had the next highest scores of 22.1 apiece.
  • Of the nine states where 100 percent of graduates took the ACT:
    • Utah had the highest score at 20.7, followed by Illinois (20.6) and Colorado (20.4).
    • Tennessee (19.5), Louisiana (19.5), and North Carolina (18.7) had the lowest scores out of this group.

College Readiness

  • Twenty-six percent of 2013 high school graduates were college ready in all four ACT subject tests (English, Reading, Math, and Science), which is one percentage point increase from 2012 and a 3 percentage point increase from 2009.
    • Of the 31 states that had at least 40 percent of their graduates take the ACT, Minnesota and Michigan were the only state where more than 50 percent of their graduates were college ready in at least three of four subjects.
    • Less than 30 percent of graduates in, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Mississippi, & Tennessee were college ready in three of four subjects.
    • 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.
  • Black and Hispanic graduates are less likely to be college ready than their white peers.
    • The percent of black graduates meeting all four benchmarks remained at 5 percent between 2012 and 2013 while the percent of Hispanic students increased from 13 to 14 percent.
    • However, these percentages are much lower than the 33 percent of white graduates who met all four benchmarks in 2013 which is up from 32 percent in 2012.
  • Between 2012 and 2013, the percentage of graduates who scored at or above the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks increased from 31 percent to 36 percent in science, but declined in the other three subject areas.
    • Over the same time period there was an eight percentage point drop in the proportion of graduates who were college-ready in reading (52 to 44 percent), a three percentage point drop in English (67 to 64 percent) and a two percentage point drop in math (46 to 44 percent).

Core Course Rigor

  • Seventy-four percent of ACT test-takers completed the recommended “core” college-preparatory curriculum, which is down from 76 percent in 2012 but still significantly higher than the 70 percent in 2009.
  • High school graduates who completed a core curriculum earned composite test scores 2.7 to 3.1 points higher than graduates who did not complete a core curriculum.
    • A three point increase in an ACT score for an average graduate increases his or her chances of getting admitted into a good college from 72 percent to 81 percent.*
  • Black and Hispanic graduates were less likely to have completed a core curriculum than white graduates.
    • While 76 percent of white graduates complete a core curriculum, just 69 percent of black graduates and 72 percent of Hispanic graduates did so.

Test Takers

  • About 54 percent of all 2013 high graduates took the ACT, compared to 52 percent in 2012 and 45 percent in 2009.
  • More minority graduates are taking the ACT.
    • In 2013, nearly 28 percent of ACT test-takers were Hispanic or black, compared to 22 percent in 2009.
    • Furthermore, the percentage of test-takers who were white decreased between 2009 and 2013, from 64 percent to 58 percent.

For more information on how to use college entrance exam scores to evaluate your school, check out the Center’s Data First Website.

* Data based on calculations from the Center for Public Education’s Chasing the College Acceptance Letter: Is it harder to get into college.






May 2, 2013

Improve college attainment rates: Invest in high school guidance counselors

A recent study by Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery hasn’t gotten a lot of media attention but is a must read. In fact, I just became aware of the study myself even though it was issued as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research back in December. Policymakers, educators, parents, and the general public should be made aware of this study because it has broad implications for narrowing gaps between low and higher income students.

What did the study find that was so important? It found that low-income high achieving students were less likely to not just attend a selective college but even apply to one as similar achieving higher income students. Instead, low-income high achieving students tend to attend non-selective two- or four-year colleges that have significantly lower instructional resources and graduation rates.

Why is this so important?  Too few low-income students go on to obtain a college degree. If more low-income students applied to more selective colleges that have greater instructional resources and higher graduations rates the college degree attainment gap between low- and high-income students would narrow. In the long-term the U.S. would likely climb up the international college graduation rate rankings as well.

You might be thinking low-income students may not attend more selective colleges because they cost more. This may be true if you compared sticker prices but the study found that if you take into account the difference in financial aid packages, many selective colleges would cost low-income students less than the non-selective colleges they wound up attending.

However, this isn’t likely to be common knowledge for many low –income students as many are the first in their families to attend college. This is why adults in their high schools need to help educate these students and their families about the college going process, particularly for those qualified to attend a selective college. Yet, when the national student to guidance counselor average is 350 to 1—likely much higher in many high poverty urban districts—it is nearly impossible for guidance counselors to find the time to ensure low-income high achieving students apply to selective schools.

This study provides more evidence of the importance of high school guidance counselors. As CPE found in our High School Rigor and Good Advice report last year, those students who meet regularly with counselors about college are more likely to succeed in college. The same report also found that those students who took more rigorous courses in high school were more likely to succeed in college as well. So, guidance counselors not only help low-income high achieving students by educating them about the college going process but by ensuring students take the rigorous courses they need to succeed in college.

Yes, getting more low-income students to complete a rigorous high school curriculum will increase the chances those students will attend and succeed in college. But this study shows that academic preparation can only go so far. If schools invest more in educating low-income students on the college going process by hiring more guidance counselors that will ensure students take rigorous courses and apply to higher quality colleges. Then the U.S. will likely see the college degree gap between low- and high-income students narrow and see the U.S. rise in the international college attainment rankings. – Jim Hull






February 22, 2013

Business buys into the common core

Maybe it’s because schools are now taking a hard look at them, maybe it’s because the countdown to common core test day looms large, but it feels like the common core standards just can’t get any love anymore. In a strange alliance of purpose, critics from both the right  and the left  are calling on states and educators to reject them, albeit, for different reasons.

Much of the criticism rests on the politics. Even though the nation’s governors and state school superintendents led the development of the CCSS, some see a heavy federal hand in getting states to adopt them through provisions in Race to the Top and NCLB waivers that ask states to have “college and career-ready” standards.  But other voices are criticizing the content of the standards themselves as either too weak or too narrow, as we have written here and here.

This week, a coalition of 72 business leaders, representing such major corporations as GE, Exxon Mobil, and State Farm, provided a counterbalance by offering their considerable voice in support of the common core. In a full-page New York Times ad (by way of Change the Equation,which boasts 42 signatories), the CEOs endorsed the standards as “meet[ing] the business community’s expectations: they are college- and career-ready, grounded in evidence and internationally benchmarked. The CCSS set consistent, focused, rigorous academic expectations for all students.”

They conclude:

We support these new, tougher academic standards that are currently being rolled out in classrooms across the country. These standards will better prepare students for college and the workplace, something of critical importance to the nation’s employers. The changes now under way in America’s schools hold great promise for creating a more highly skilled workforce that is better equipped to meet the needs of local, state and national economies.

We see a lot to admire in the content of the CCSS as well as in the state-driven process that produced them. But the proof will be in the implementation, and the capacity of school districts to provide the support and resources teachers will need to teach them. So stay tuned.






January 4, 2013

Singing our song

Fareed Zakaria is calling for a “growth” agenda for the nation’s economic health, one that recognizes the importance of developing our human capital.  Writing in this morning’s Washington Post, Zakaria acknowledges the urgency — and difficulty — of getting our fiscal  house in order, yet argues that our “deeper challenge” may well be finding the collective will to invest in our infrastructure.

Zakaria is singing our song, especially when he highlights our need to invest in education. And indeed, to make the point he quotes from Jim Hull’s recent analysis on international college completions. As Jim points out, our young adults are being surpassed by their peers in other countries in college attainment, but a focus on two-year degrees will go a long way toward improving our standing and give a real boost to the economy.

You can learn more about the role for high schools in improving post-secondary completions by checking out CPE’s high school toolkit.–Patte Barth

Filed under: college,High school — Tags: , , — Patte Barth @ 11:54 am





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