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More Black and Hispanic Students Taking the ACT Exam, College Readiness Levels Remain Flat

While scores and college readiness levels remained relatively flat from 2008, the numbers of Black and Hispanic high school graduates in 2009 who took the ACT college entrance exam remained the same or increased for a fourth consecutive year nationally, according to the ACT ‘Measuring College and Career Readiness: The Class of 2009’ report. According to the study, 196,000 Black and 134,000 Hispanic 2009 graduates took the exam while more than 178,000 Blacks and 114,000 Hispanics from the 2008 class took the exam.

For Blacks, the increase in ACT test taking was a 10 percent jump over one year and 41 percent jump since 2005. Hispanic high school seniors saw a 16 percent increase in ACT test taking over one year and a 60 percent increase since 2005. The findings also showed that for Black students who took the ACT exam, there was also an increase in the number of test-takers. Overall, 1,480,469 high school seniors from  2008-09 took the ACT, a 4.1 percent increase from the 2007-08 senior cohort of 1,421,941.

Among the 2009 Black high school graduates, just 35 percent meet the benchmark score for college-level English, down 2 percent from 2008; only 12 of Black graduates are ready for college mathematics, up 1 percent from 2008; 20 percent are reading at college level, down 1 percent from the previous year; and just six percent are ready for college-level science, up 1 percent from 2008. The report revealed that only 4 percent of the Black students are college ready in all four subjects.

From the 2009 report, only 48 percent of the Hispanic ACT test takers are ready for college-level English, that is down 1 percent from 2008.  For college math, 27 percent of Hispanics are ready, that is up 1 percent from 2008.  In reading, 35 percent of Hispanics meet or exceed the benchmark which is unchanged from the previous year, and only 13 percent are ready for college-level science, the same as 2008. The findings show that only 10 percent of Hispanic test takers are college ready in all four subjects.


Seventy-seven percent of White students from the class of 2009 are college ready in English; 50 percent are college ready in mathematics; 62 percent are reading at college-level; and 35 percent are ready for college science. Twenty-eight percent of the White high school graduates from the 2009 class are college ready in all four subjects.


Bob Schaeffer, the public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), said in an interview with Diverse that the data show a disappointing trend. 

“This is disappointing news,” Schaeffer said “It shows that the test scores are stagnant and not narrowing.  It reflects a failure of the No Child Left Behind law.”

Schaeffer said some colleges and universities are replacing their entrance exam requirements with test-optional admissions. Currently, more than 830 accredited bachelor-degree granting institutions do not require all or many applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores before admissions.

“[Test-taking] doesn’t improve educational quality,” he said.  “It’s not a fair measure of the ability to do college work.  It is an unfair access to college, especially for low-income and historically excluded minorities.”

Cynthia B. Schmeiser, the president and chief operating officer of ACT’s education division, said in a statement the data shows that improvement is needed in our country’s education system.

“Collectively, we all have an obligation and a responsibility to do everything within our power to make sure our nation’s students are better prepared for college and work upon graduation,” Schmeiser said.

George Cushman, vice president of programs at the Hispanic College Fund, said the data is a valid indicator that Hispanic students are coming from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, including many of whom are from poor communities where the schools have few resources. 

“We have to change the attitudes,” Cushman said, “and open up the door to possibilities so they can apply themselves. When [Hispanic students] can perceive they belong [in schools], then we will see a difference in the scores.”

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