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African-American Students Found Falling Short of College-Readiness Benchmarks

Even when African-American students take the recommended core courses in high school, a new study finds, most are struggling to meet the key ACT benchmarks that indicate they are ready to succeed in college.

Overall, 31 percent of students in the class of 2014 who took the ACT failed to meet any of the readiness benchmarks in English, reading, mathematics, and science, while 62 percent of African-American students failed to meet any, according to a report released today from ACT Inc. and the United Negro College Fund.

The benchmarks specify the minimum scores researchers estimate for a student to have about a 75 percent chance of earning a grade of C or higher in a typical credit-bearing first-year college course in the subject area.

When African-American students took the recommended four years of English and three years each of science, math, and social studies, still only 36 percent met the English benchmark, compared to 67 percent of all students. Just 19 percent met the minimum threshold in reading, compared with 47 percent of all test-takers. Among those who completed the core courses, 15 percent of African-American students met the readiness benchmark in math and 11 percent did so in science.

There were 1.8 million high school students who took the ACT last year, of which nearly 242,000 were African-American students. The number of black students participating in the testing has increased by 12 percent since 2010, the Iowa City, Iowa, testing organization reports.

Despite the lagging performance, the new study finds that 86 percent of the ACT test-takers surveyed who were African American indicated they planned on earning a college degree.

Last week, ACT Inc. released a report reflecting similar gaps in college readiness for low-income students.

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