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Low-Income Students Continue to Lag on College Readiness Measures

A new report from ACT, Inc. shows that 96 percent of its low-income test-takers plan to go to college, yet most are not prepared to succeed at college-level work.

About 435,000 students or one-quarter of the 2014 high school graduates who took the ACT reported an annual family income of less than $36,000. Of that group, just 11 percent met all four ACT benchmarks (indicating they were likely to earn at least a C in an entry-level college course in English, reading, math, and science) compared to 26 percent of all ACT test takers. Half of all low-income students failed to meet a single benchmark.

Test performance for all students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds has been relatively flat for the past five years, according to the Iowa City, Iowa-based testing organization, which released the report July 20.

ACT has consistently found that students who take the recommended core curriculum (four years of English and three years each of mathematics, social studies, and science) are more likely to be ready for college or career than those who do not. The report shows about half of low-income students took four years of English, about 20 percent took three years of science, and less than one-third took the core level of math or reading.

To improve student readiness, ACT recommends that state and local school systems align coursework to higher career- and college-readiness standards and closely evaluate student performance. It also suggests supports be provided to help struggling students achieve academic success.

For another take on the results, see my colleague Catherine Gewertz's report at High School & Beyond

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