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ACT Report: College Readiness Improves, But Many Grads Still Lack College-Ready Skills


National ACT scores rose significantly in 2006 and both males and females from all racial ethnic groups have shown improvement, according to a report released earlier this week by the testing agency. ACT says 2006 has seen the biggest increase in 20 years.

“The growth in the average ACT composite score is encouraging, particularly given the increase in the number of students taking the test,” says Richard L. Ferguson, ACT’s chief executive officer. “The results suggest that student academic achievement and college readiness are on the rise.”

Growth in the number of test-takers was particularly strong in East Coast states, with Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont all posting double-digit percentage gains.

Hispanic student scores have stayed fairly stable, increasing 0.2 points, from 18.4 in 2002 to 18.6 this year. Asian students also saw a 0.2 point jump in scores, while American Indians, Blacks and Whites all rose 0.1 points.

Asian students earned the highest average composite score at 22.3, followed by White at 22.0, American Indians at 18.8, Hispanics at 18.6 and Blacks at 17.1.

Females outscored males on the ACT Writing Test, which was launched in February 2005. Fewer than half of four-year colleges and universities required that students submit writing scores for fall 2006 admission. The female students earned an average score of 7.9 compared to males’ average score of 7.4. Again, Asian students posted the highest score of 8.0, while Black students were the lowest at 6.8.

Although many students are enrolling in tougher high school courses to prepare for college, the report suggests that the majority of ACT-tested graduates will likely struggle in their first-year math and science courses. Only 42 percent of test-takers met the College Readiness Benchmark on the ACT Math test. According to the test, a score of 22 indicates that a student will have a high probability of earning a “C” or higher and a 50 percent probability of a “B” or higher in college algebra.

“More students are preparing themselves better for college-level coursework,” says Ferguson. “However, we still have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills they need to succeed at the next level.”

He adds that the number, as well as the rigor, of courses taken by a student is equally important.

“A student can take four years of math courses in high school, but if the content of those courses doesn’t cover essential knowledge and skills needed in college and work, then that student is less likely to be well prepared to succeed,” he says.

Diverse staff reports


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